Should our dogs be taking vitamins as they age? Healthy pets who are eating pre-made food, meaning dry kibble or wet food, with a label on the bag that says the food meets AAFCO standards, do not require vitamins as their diets are pre-balanced with the essential amino acids and vitamins.  However, as pets do age, they may benefit from other supportive products including joint supplements and skin supplements.  Pets with underlying health issues such as allergies may benefit from other dietary supplements as well.

How do I know what’s a good food and what isn’t?

Great question!  There are several considerations for picking out an appropriate food for your pet.  Let’s break it down into pieces:

Ingredient quality – What are the first three ingredients?  Do they include by-products?

AAFCO statement – AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, puts a label or statement on foods that have passed their testing to be considered balanced for essential nutrients.

Does the food meet your pet’s health needs? For example, there are diets available that are specially formulated for pets with diseases such as urinary, kidney, or thyroid disease.  Additionally, some foods contain additional supplements that may decrease signs associated with arthritis or skin disease.

What is your pet’s lifestyle?  Some diets are specially formulated to be higher in carbohydrate, fat, and protein levels to supplement increased activity levels.  Dogs who are candidates for these diets include working dogs and sled dogs.  The average dog who is active for 1-2 hours per day does not usually require the extra calories.

We put our dog Abbey on a grain and chicken free diet, which seemed to help with her allergies. Now I am seeing that grain free diets may possibly be leading to heart disease. Now I’m not sure what we should feed her????

Recent investigations have found a possible correlation between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs.  Currently, there is little evidence that grain actually causes allergy symptoms.  Often by switching dogs to a grain-free diet, the overall ingredient quality of the diet is improved and this contributes to better health.  As new research is released, we are committed to keeping clients updated.  In the meantime, we don’t generally recommend grain free diets.  For pets who are stable on a grain free diet, we recommend supplementing taurine (the amino acid that contributes to heart disease), available in pill supplements, and more frequent wellness checks (for example every 6 months) with chest x-rays when possible to detect heart disease as early as possible.

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“As previously reported by American Veterinarian®, there is a notable discrepancy between the types of pet foods veterinarians and pet owners believe to be healthy for dogs and cats. For instance, when asked whether low- or no-grain diets are healthier for dogs, 46% of pet owners said yes, while 63% of veterinary professionals said no, according to a survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Similarly, 63% of pet owners said corn was not healthy for dogs, but 50% of veterinarians said it was.

Could a gap in knowledge become detrimental to pets?

Today, the FDA released a warning to veterinarians and pet owners about reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating pet foods that contained peas, lentils, legume seeds, or potatoes as the main ingredients. It is not yet known how these ingredients are linked to cases of DCM.

The reports raised a red flag because DCM is occurring more frequently in breeds that are not considered genetically predisposed to developing the disease, including golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, whippets, a Shih Tzu, a bulldog, miniature schnauzers, and mixed breeds.

In the cases reported to the FDA, the dogs were being fed diets that commonly listed potatoes or multiple legumes as well as their protein, starch, and fiber sources early in the ingredient list, indicating that those were the main ingredients. High levels of legumes or potatoes are found often in products labeled as “grain-free.”

The medical records for 4 of the atypical DCM cases—3 golden retrievers and 1 Labrador retriever—revealed that the dogs had low whole blood levels of taurine, which is documented as potentially leading to DCM.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network are investigating this potential association. According to the FDA, early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate that the dogs ate these foods consistently for time periods ranging from months to years.

In an article that originally appeared on the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University’s blog Petfoodology, Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN, recalled a recent patient that was diagnosed with DCM at the school’s hospital. Upon further evaluation, it was discovered that the 4-year-old beagle-Labrador mix had been fed a grain-free pet food that contained kangaroo meat and chickpeas.

“Recently, some astute cardiologists noticed higher rates of DCM in golden retrievers and some atypical dog breeds,” Dr. Freeman wrote. “They also noticed that both the typical and atypical breeds were more likely to be eating boutique or grain-free diets, and diets with exotic ingredients—kangaroo, lentils, duck, pea, fava bean, buffalo, tapioca, salmon, lamb, barley, bison, venison, and chickpeas. Even some vegan diets have been associated. It has even been seen in dogs eating raw or home-prepared diets.”

While the investigation is ongoing, the FDA is encouraging pet owners and veterinary professionals to report cases of DCM that may be linked to a dog’s diet by using the Safety Reporting Portal.”

See original article here

An excellent web video called “Cat Carriers: Friend not Foe” is available which demonstrates the recommendations listed below.  Please feel free to use this link to see the site: www.catalystcouncil.org/resources/health_welfare/cat_carrier_video/

Step 1)

Choose a good carrier: 

An ideal carrier is safe, easy to clean, easy to get your cat into and out of, and a reasonable size for you to carry.  Many an injury can occur when a frightened cat jumps out of an owner’s arm, or is loose in the car during a sudden stop. Carriers that can be opened from the top, a side or that can be easily taken apart and re-assembled work very well.  Plastic carriers are easy to clean, which is especially important if a cat has urinated or vomits during the trip.  Soft cloth carriers are harder to clean but more comfortable for some cats.  A good carrier can be a safe, and even comforting place for the carrier trained cat.

Step 2)

Making the carrier a welcome den for your kitty:

Many people store their cat carrier in the closet or basement and get it out when it is time for that yearly trip to the veterinarian.  As a result, the kitty hides when is sees the carrier.  The carrier also may smell strange from being stored, and from previous trips during which the cat felt nervous.  To help alleviate some stress find that carrier, clean it up and place a nice comforting towel or a piece of clothing from the cat’s favorite person in it.  Put the carrier in a place where the kitty often relaxes or sleeps and leave it there with the door open, inviting the cat to rest or play in it.  For particularly nervous cats, enticing them to enter the carrier with treats or play can really help.  If the carrier is a regular and safe part of the kitty’s life it won’t seem scary when it is time to ride to the veterinary office.

Step 3)

Getting ready for a ride:

Once your cat is used to being in and around the carrier, we need to get her used to the sounds the carrier makes when the door is opened or closed, and the feeling of being picked up and moved.  Exercises at home prior to the vet visit can help.  Make sure to minimize shifting and bumping when the carrier is carried.  (This is why you should avoid getting a carrier bigger than you can comfortably handle.)

Step 4)

Getting used to the car ride:

Some cats feel more comfortable with a blanket or towel draped over the carrier for rides.

Bringing the carrier to the car and getting the cat used to short drives can also help them prepare for future vet trips. 

We need to try to make the journey in the car as smooth as possible.  During cold weather, warm the car up prior to travel.  In hot weather remember that closed cars heat up fast and heat stroke is a concern; so don’t leave pets in closed cars unattended for any length of time.  Avoid loud music, and sudden accelerations or stops as much as safe driving allows. 

Step 5)

Minimizing stress at the Veterinary Hospital

Try to sit at a distance from dogs in the office and keep a cover over the carrier if kitty is more nervous at the Veterinary office.  If your cat is particularly anxious, ask to arrange an appointment during one of the quieter times at the clinic.

While it would be ideal for cats to visit the Veterinary office when it is calm and there are no dogs barking (especially true if the cats don’t live with dogs), that is not always possible.  Most small animal practices don’t have the luxury of having a “cat only” area.  In order to help our feline patients, State Street Animal Hospital is trying out a “cats only” Wednesday appointment time once a month.  Ask us about “Whisker Wednesday” if you would like to try this out to help your feline friend feel less stressed.

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Seeing parasites in our pets’ poop grosses just about everyone out. The dangerous parasites are actually the ones you don’t see. Generally, when pet owners see diarrhea or worms they call their vet—which they should—but not all pets with parasites have obvious signs. The stool of a pet with only a few worms may look normal but contain dozens of eggs, and the eggs of the roundworm can survive in soil for 6-10 years. Not only does that make a backyard a source of parasite infection for animals, it means that children who play there and adults who garden there can be exposed. In humans these parasites can cause more serious problems, including gastrointestinal illness and even blindness.

There are several types of worms that may affect our pets and the most common in our region are roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Roundworm can spread to people and in some cases migrate into the nervous system and eyes causing blindness. Hookworm can cause skin rashes as the young parasite migrates under human skin. Many people mistakenly think that because they don’t see any diarrhea, their pet doesn’t have parasites but this may not be true. When only a few worms are present their pet may have normal stool but pass several hundred eggs. When a dog is kept in the same yard, the eggs may begin to accumulate, constantly re-exposing the dog and any other animals in the yard. Since the eggs of roundworm cam survive a very long time—even though winter’s ice and snow, a yard that is heavily infested is a risk to humans especially when they eat with unwashed hands after cleaning up after pets. Many pet stores carry “de-worming medications” but these products rarely target all of the varieties of worms. Veterinarians can check a stool sample for the presence of parasite eggs and know exactly which parasites your pet is carrying and what medication will be safest and most effective. Your Veterinary doctor can also set up a preventative program with you to keep everyone safe.

HERE is the good news. Parasite problems can be easily controlled in our pets and good parasite control plus good hygiene can protect your family. Talk to your Veterinarian to set up an appropriate de-worming schedule.

Winter Grooming

  • If you normally have your pet’s fur clipped or shaved, keep the length longer in winter to keep your dog warm.
  • Nails may require more frequent trimming since your pet is spending more time indoor on soft surfaces.  This applies for cats too.
  • If you bathe your dog at home make sure he is completely dry before going out.
  • Examine the pads of your pet’s feet for signs of cracking or irritation. If you find your pet has cracking call your veterinarian before applying anything to check which products are safe.
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