Service Dog Goes Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Figo being transported from the accident scene. Photo Credit: www.reshareworthy.com

An eight-year-old Golden Retriever named Figo (pronounced “FEE-go”) is my new hero. Figo is a devoted service dog and he recently demonstrated his devotion by putting his life on the line for his human companion Audrey Stone who is legally blind.

On June 8th Audrey and Figo went out for their daily walk in Brewster, New York. While crossing a street they were approached by a mini school bus. The bus driver failed to see the twosome, but Figo clearly saw the mini bus moving towards them. Witnesses at the scene describe Figo leaping to action by moving from his companion’s right side to her left, literally putting himself between Audrey and the bus. In spite of his efforts, Audrey and Figo were both seriously injured.

Audrey Stone is in stable condition at Danbury Hospital, recovering from a fractured elbow and ankle, three broken ribs, and a cut to her head. Fifteen miles away from where Audrey is recovering, Figo is also in stable condition at Middlebranch Veterinary, located in Carmel New York. Figo’s right front leg went under the bus resulting a mild break in the bone as well as severe trauma to the skin and deeper tissues.

Surgery was performed on Figo’s leg, and he is receiving antibiotics and pain medication. Multiple bandage changes will be required throughout his recovery. Dr. Angela O’Donnell, the attending veterinarian reports that Figo is on the mend. “He won’t have to wear the cone of shame. He’s a good boy and he’s leaving his bandage alone. That points to the strides he’s making. If it was bothering him more, he probably would be chewing at it.” O’Donnell also reported that an anonymous benefactor has offered to pay for Figo’s veterinary care.

While lying in her hospital bed, Audrey Stone talked about Figo, her third service dog. When she met Figo, “We hit it off immediately. He protects me, he loves me, and vice versa. We just have a strong connection.” Stone said that she doesn’t remember much about the accident, but she clearly recalls the image of a wounded Figo crawling to be by her side. Witnesses concur reporting that, following the trauma, Figo remained intent on staying by his Audrey’s side. He didn’t stop struggling until she was taken away by ambulance. Audrey was quoted as saying, “He needs the Purple Heart from the president.” I couldn’t agree with her more!

Here’s hoping for smooth and speedy recoveries for Audrey and Figo, and may they be reunited very soon.

Has your dog ever gone above and beyond the call of duty for you or a member of your family?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Five Reasons to Consider Fish Oil Supplementation for Your Dog

“Fish” by Malias on Flicker - CCFish oil is certainly a popular supplement these days for health conscious people. There are many proven benefits, and we now know that many of these same benefits also apply to our canine companions.

What is fish oil?

As the name implies, fish oil is derived from marine animals and is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Animals cannot manufacture these fatty acids on their own; they must be consumed in the diet. For this reason they are often referred to as “essential fatty acids.”

Mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovies, sardines, herring, trout, and menhaden are all loaded to the gills (pun intended) with omega-3’s, and they are common sources of fish oil supplements. The fatty acids with the greatest health benefits are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Both are ingredients found on the labels of fish oil supplements.

Five known benefits of fish oil supplementation for dogs

Based on the documented benefits of fish oil, veterinarians recommend its use as a nutraceutical (a food that provides medicinal benefit) for the following common canine maladies.

  1. Arthritis

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for their therapeutic benefit for dogs with arthritis. In a study of 127 dogs with arthritis, those fed a diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids showed significant improvement in their abilities to rise from a resting position, play, and walk. Prescription diets made specifically for dogs with arthritis are heavily supplemented with fish oil.

  1. Inflammatory skin disease

Allergic skin disease and other inflammatory skin conditions have the potential to benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil. A study was performed on 16 dogs with itchy skin. Compared to the placebo group, those receiving fish oil demonstrated significant improvement (less itching, less self-trauma, and improved haircoat).

Another study performed on dogs with varying stages of skin allergies demonstrated that fish oil was more effective for dogs who were in the earliest stages of their skin problems compared to those with more advanced disease.

  1. Treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction is a well-recognized syndrome of older dogs that, in many ways, resembles human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, has been shown to improve cognitive dysfunction in affected dogs. Interestingly, DHA appears to slow the progression of human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A study was performed on 142 older dogs with a variety of behavioral abnormalities (disorientation, disrupted sleep patterns, altered interactions with family members, altered activity levels, and loss of house training). During the 60-day period, dogs fed a DHA-supplemented food showed significant improvement in every one of these behavior categories.

  1. Treatment of heart disease

Profound weight loss is a common symptom in dogs with chronic heart failure, and is associated with decreased survival times. A study was performed on dogs with heart failure, some of whom were fed fish oil. The dogs receiving the fish oil supplementation experienced longer survival times and less weight loss compared to those on a fish oil-free diet.

  1. Treatment of kidney disease

Fish oil supplementation has proven benefit in dogs with glomerular disease, a kidney disorder resulting in excessive protein loss in the urine. Glomerular disease is often associated with kidney failure.

In a study of dogs with glomerular disease, dietary supplementation with fish oil was shown to significantly slow the progression of the kidney damage. Additionally, fish oil has been shown to have a protective effect against acute injury to the kidneys. For this reason, fish oil supplementation is reasonable to consider for any dog with compromised kidney function.

Fish Oil Precautions

Let the buyer beware. Not all over the counter fish oil supplements are created equal. In a study of 51 best-selling fish oil products in the United States, 21 of them varied in their DHA and EPA concentrations by more than 10 percent compared to their label claims.

Careful attention to the dose of fish oil for a dog is important. Too much fish oil can produce adverse side effects such as diarrhea, blood clotting abnormalities, delayed wound healing, vitamin E deficiency, weight gain, and altered immune system function. Lastly, fish oil has the potential to produce problematic interactions with some other medications, particularly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

Questions for your veterinarian

Thinking of getting your dog started on a fish oil supplement? Before you do, I encourage you to discuss this idea with your veterinarian. Here are some questions to be sure to ask.

  • Does my dog have a disorder that might benefit from fish oil supplementation?
  • What dosage should I give?
  • What brand of fish oil do you recommend?
  • Is fish oil supplementation compatible with the other medications I am giving my dog?

Do you give a fish oil supplement to your dog?  If so, what is the reason?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Quinn playing with Tupi

Five Things Veterinarians Love About Poop Samples

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Wouldn’t it be grand if our pets didn’t have to poop? There would be no litter boxes to clean, no carrying plastic bags laden with feces when walking the dog, and no inadvertently stepping in a fresh pile of poo when walking across the lawn. Alas, poop production is simply a normal part of life. What goes in must come out.

So, how do veterinarians put a positive spin on pet poop? No problem! Those of us in the profession deal with fecal matter day in and day out- either testing it or cleaning it up. If we didn’t figure out ways to get along well with pet poop, we might just go crazy! Here are five examples of how veterinarians manage to have some fun with their patients’ poop:

1. Egg hunts

This is an Easter egg hunt done veterinary medicine style. Screening a pet for intestinal worms involves mixing a poop sample with a special liquid, spinning it in a centrifuge, and then looking at the concoction under the microscope. One peers through the lens, adjusts the focus, scans around, and then, bingo! One might just find some parasite eggs! Finding eggs is always exciting, and when there’s more than one type of egg present, it’s like winning the fecal lottery!

2. Getting the stool sample without it getting you

Clients come up with some pretty creative containers in which to deliver their pets’ poop samples. Imagine a plastic grocery bag, or one of those long plastic bags that your newspaper is packaged in on a rainy day. Now imagine a soft, mushy stool sample or some “Kitty Roca” at the very bottom of one of those bags. How are you gonna get to the poop without fecalizing your forearm? Trust me when I tell you that it’s a challenge. I would tell you how, but it’s a trade secret.

3. Poop interrogations

When a client tells me that their pet has diarrhea, my exam room morphs into an interrogation room and I ask questions as if I’m a police detective investigating a crime.

-Any blood?

-Any mucous?

-Any straining?

-Any urgency?

-How large are they?

-How many bowel movements per day?

The answers to these questions help pinpoint if the cause of the diarrhea is within the small intestine, the large intestine, or both. This is critical information in my world, and when my client knows the answers to all of my questions, it makes my day!

4. Retrieval of valuable objects

Imagine this scenario. “Bad dog” ate his human’s diamond engagement ring. X-rays tell me that the ring has made it all the way down to “bad dog’s” colon (the very end of the intestinal tract). We keep “bad dog” in the hospital and watch him like a hawk. The minute he produces a poop sample we attack it with a tongue depressor hoping to strike gold (and diamonds). After 12 hours in the hospital, the third turd is the charm. The ring is found, thoroughly washed, and delivered back to his human. “Bad dog” goes home with hopes that he will become a “good dog” and that his human will find a more secure system to safeguard her jewelry.

5. Responding to poopy emails

When I receive an email from a client containing a photo attachment of their pet’s poop, I enjoy the mental exercise of crafting a response. I allow myself a few moments of unadulterated enjoyment, fantasizing about what I would say if I were lacking inhibitory neurons. I then move on to crafting an email response that is both tactful and appreciative of my client’s good intentions. I gently explain that a photo can’t possibly take the place of viewing the poop (and the animal) up close and personal. How do I respond to client emails with logs (pun intended) of poop data such as turd weight and diameter? I advise these folks to do whatever makes them happy, but no need to include me in the process.

How often does your veterinarian examine your pet’s stool sample?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

 

New Legislation Will Protect Pets Involved in Domestic Violence

“Lovely White Haired Lady” by Racchio on FlickerAny member of a household, including companion animals, can become victims of domestic violence. In fact, fear of what might happen to a pet keeps some human victims from leaving their abusive situation. This is the impetus behind bipartisan federal legislation H.R. 1258, referred to as The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS Act). This pending legislation has 57 co-sponsors in Congress and the endorsement of many domestic violence and welfare organizations. The American Veterinary Medical Association has just announced its support for the PAWS Act.

The PAWS Act

The PAWS Act would assist both male and female victims of domestic violence and their pets through the following measures:

  • Threatening a pet would be considered a stalking-related crime.
  • Grant funding would increase the availability of alternative housing for pets of domestic violence victims.
  • States would provide protections against violent or threatening acts towards the pets belonging to the person named in a domestic violence protection order.
  • Abusers who harm pets would be required to pay for veterinary expenses to treat the animal.

Domestic abuse victims and their pets

Maryland Democratic Representative Katherine Clark introduced the PAWS Act on March 4 along with Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ms. Clark has stated, “No one should have to make the choice between leaving an abusive situation and ensuring their pet’s safety.”

Advocates for this legislation report that approximately 33 percent of domestic violence victims postpone leaving an abusive relationship because of concern for their pets well being. Additionally, up to 25 percent of victims return to an abusive partner because they fear for their pets.

Abusers are often aware of the emotional bond between the victims and their pets. They may exploit that bond in order to frighten, manipulate, and control the target of their abuse. Some grim statistics bear this out:

  • As many as 48 percent of battered women reported that they delayed leaving a dangerous situation because of concern for their pet’s safety.
  • Between 49 and 86 percent of victims reported that their pets had been threatened, harmed or killed by their abusers.
  • 85 percent of domestic violence shelters indicated that women coming into their facilities spoke of incidents of pet abuse.
  • When leaving an abuse situation requires relinquishment of a pet, victims of abuse report losing an important source of support as they adjust to this separation and recover from the violence.

Some victims who have escaped their abuse struggle to afford necessary veterinary care for their pets who have been harmed by abuse. While many sympathetic veterinarians discount or donate their services, the PAWS Act would enforce provision of veterinary care costs in these situations.

What you can do

The PAWS Act was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on 3/31/15. How can you help this bill come to fruition? I encourage you to write to your US Representatives asking them to cosponsor the PAWS Act (H.R. 1258). Just imagine how this legislation will provide benefit to victims of abuse by giving them the ability to protect a beloved pet.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Pet Food: What You See May Not Be What You Get

Many regulations exist for pet foods, but some recent research questions whether such regulations are adequately protective against pet food mislabeling. A study, conducted at Chapman University’s Food Science Program, suggests that pet food mislabeling is relatively common.

The researchers evaluated 52 commercial pet foods and treats marketed for dogs and cats. They used DNA analysis to look for eight meat species (beef, goat, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, goose, and horse) within each product. They then determined if the protein species identified within each product matched up with the species identified on the product label.

Results

Here’s what the Chapman University researchers learned. Of the 52 products tested 20 were mislabeled. Thirteen contained meat from a species not listed on the label, four lacked one or more meats listed on the label, and three had both problems. One wet cat food product contained a non-specific meat ingredient that could not be clearly identified.

Chicken was the most common meat species identified, followed by pork, beef, turkey, and lamb, respectively. Goose was the least common species, and none of the products tested contained horsemeat.

Of the 20 mislabeled products, seven were cat foods and 13 were dog foods. Pork was the most common undeclared species (existed in the product, but not on the label) and occurred in seven out of 52 samples.

This study did not look into why some pet foods are mislabeled or where in the manufacturing chain of events the errors are arising. Perhaps the problem occurs within the factory itself. Perhaps it originates from the source of meat products delivered to the factory from who knows where.

By the way, the various brands of pet foods and treats included in the study have not been revealed.

Questioning the results

Pat Tovey, director of technology and regulatory compliance for the Pet Food Institute, has questioned the Chapman University results based in part on his belief that pet food companies would never risk their reputations by committing fraud. Tovey has stated,

Our member companies want to comply with the regulations, and we feel that it’s important and companies feel it’s important that customers buying the products get what they’re paying for.

Tovey has theorized that small amounts of protein in a product would be sufficient to comply with FDA standards yet be too small to be detected by the methods used in the study. For example, beef needs to make up only three percent of a pet food labeled as “with beef” to comply with AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards.

While Mr. Tovey’s theory sounds logical, it is likely not applicable. Tara Okuma, one of the Chapman University researchers, stated that there was a one percent minimum detection limit for turkey in two of the three products in which turkey meat was on the label, but was undetected in the food product.

Additionally, beef was listed on the label, but was not detected in four products. In three of these products, beef was listed as the first or second ingredient suggesting that detection should have been possible if the species was indeed present.

Why is this important?

Does it really matter if a pet food label misidentifies the source of protein within the product? After all, isn’t it the amount rather than the type of protein that’s important? (Can you tell that it is difficult for me to play devil’s advocate here?)

There are a few reasons the results of the Chapman University matter to me. To begin with, the results beg one to wonder if misidentification of the source of protein within a pet food product is only the tip of the iceberg. What other label inaccuracies might be flying “under the radar” that just might adversely impact the health of the dog or cat consuming the product?

Secondly, food allergies are a relatively common occurrence amongst dogs and cats, and proteins are the most commonly incriminated cause. For example, a dog that is allergic to beef might do fine eating a purely lamb or turkey based diet. Someone who purchases a “hypoallergenic” or “novel protein” diet for their allergic pet has the right to feel confident that the product’s protein labeling is accurate.

Lastly, pet lovers who spend beaucoup bucks on high quality nutrition for their four-legged family members are entitled to product label transparency. What they are seeing on the product label is exactly what they should be getting.

What is your reaction to this news?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Students Organize Puppy Mill Awareness Week

Puppy Mill Action Week begins on May 6th. It is a time to contemplate what we can do to make a positive difference. For some time now, I’ve believed that the very best way to eradicate puppy mills is by educating kids. A child who is aware of the reality of puppy mills can rattle the family conscience, particularly when Mom or Dad are thinking about purchasing a puppy on line or from a pet store. This is the reason a recent story about eighth grade students at Courtenay Language Arts Center in Chicago put a big smile on my face.

When these students learned about the suffering of dogs in puppy mills, they were determined to make a difference. Here’s what they did. After researching puppy mills and speaking with experts on this topic, they brainstormed ways that they could make a difference.

The culmination of their efforts occurred just last month. They organized an entire week devoted to increasing awareness about puppy mills within their school. This Puppy Mill Awareness Week included:

  • Daily morning announcements with facts about puppy mills
  • Visits to classrooms of younger students to read Ruby’s Story, a children’s book about a dog from a puppy mill
  • A basketball game fundraiser for a local animal shelter
  • Posters hung to educate students about puppy mills
  • An assembly created by the eighth grade students and featuring speakers from The Puppy Mill Project and Found

It appears that the Courtenay Language Arts Center Puppy Mill Awareness Week was a huge success in terms of raising awareness. As one student stated,

I will keep informing others about the situation in case they’re buying from a suspicious place. Finally, if I get a puppy I’ll make sure to get it from an animal shelter and not a pet shop or puppy mill.

It just doesn’t get any better than that! Now, I challenge you to educate kids about puppy mills. If you need some ideas, check out “Puppy Mills Exposed” and “A Happy Home for Every Dog and Cat” in HEART’s Humane Resource Guide. For older kids, I recommend that together you watch, “What is a Puppy Mill” created by HEART and the ASPCA. This video is just about guaranteed to stimulate some important discussion.

Are there children in your life who can learn about puppy mills?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

When Doing the Wrong Thing Feels So Right

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Have you ever made the mistake of doing the wrong thing with your dog because, in the heat of the moment, it felt like exactly the right thing to do? Here’s an example of what I’m describing.

A few months ago, my husband and I went horseback riding in Pisgah National Forest, located in western North Carolina. The day was crisp and cold, and the ground was covered with slushy snow. As we chugged along trying to stay warm, the sound of a man’s shouting interrupted our conversation. We turned to look and saw the man’s dog, a large Husky or Malamute mix, making a beeline towards us.

The man issued forth a vehement litany of progressively louder recall commands, none of which produced a change in his dog’s trajectory:

“Scout, come!”

“Scout, you better get over here!”

“Right now!!”

“Scout, come, right now!!”

“Get over here right now!!!”

My husband and I provided some help by turning our horses around and slowly advancing towards the dog who responded in a predictable fashion. Scout turned tail and ran towards what he thought would be safety. Although he was now heading in the right direction, the man continued his angry ranting, so much so that I was surprised to see Scout venture back into capture range.

I had a sense of what Scout was in store for, and I attempted to salvage the situation by shouting, “You should praise him for coming back to you. Tell him he’s a good boy.” My words were either not heard or ignored. The man was intent on doing what he believed was the right thing- making sure his dog knew that he did a very, very, very bad thing. As soon as Scout was in range, the man grabbed him by the nape of the neck and lifted him off the ground, all the while yelling, “Bad dog!” Scout screamed in alarm as only a Malamute or Husky can do. I cringed and turned my horse back in the opposite direction. I didn’t want to watch any more and believed that any attempt on my part to educate would end badly.

Do I think that Scout’s dad shouldn’t be caring for a dog? Heck no. Sure, he acted inappropriately, but this does not negate the facts that he brought his dog along on an outdoor adventure, and he didn’t want him hassling our horses or potentially getting injured by them. Like so many of us have done, this man simply made the rookie mistake of doing the wrong thing because, in the heat of the moment, it felt like exactly the right thing to do. One can only hope that his experience with Scout that day convinced him to consult with a professional dog/human trainer.

When working with your dog, have you ever done the wrong thing because at the time it felt like exactly the right thing to do?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Glomerular Disease in Dogs

Glomerular disease occurs quite commonly in dogs. It affects purebreds and mixed-breeds alike, and can be an inherited disorder in Shar Peis, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Bull Terriers, Dalmatians, Samoyeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Newfoundlands, and English Cocker Spaniels.

Terminology

Veterinarians use a number of different terms interchangeably when describing “glomerular disease”. Here is a sampling of those most commonly used:

  • Glomerulopathy
  • Glomerulonephropathy
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Protein losing nephropathy

Glomerular function

Each kidney contains millions of glomeruli, microscopic filtration units that interface with the blood vessels that supply the kidneys. I like to think of a glomerulus as a tiny sieve or colander because the size of its pores dictates which substances within the blood are allowed to enter into the fluid that ultimately becomes urine. Normal glomeruli do not allow larger protein molecules such as albumin to pass into the urine.

Causes of glomerular damage

The most common means by which glomeruli are damaged include:

  • Inflammation, particularly that which is immune mediated (autoimmune) in nature
  • A form of scarring referred to as glomerulosclerosis
  • Persistent high pressure blood flow to the kidneys (e.g., elevated blood pressure)
  • Deposition of a protein called amyloid (this is referred to as amyloidosis)

When glomeruli are damaged, they become “leakier,” thus allowing larger protein molecules to filter into the urine. Persistent proteinuria (increased protein within the urine) is a hallmark characteristic of glomerular disease.

Glomerular damage may be present at the very earliest onset of kidney disease, well before there are other measurable laboratory changes or symptoms typically associated with kidney damage. Moreover, compared to dogs with kidney disease and no proteinuria, those with glomerular damage are far more likely to develop significant illness and/or death as a result of their kidney disorder. In other words, glomerular disease, particularly when left untreated, hastens the progression of kidney failure.

Glomerular damage can arise as a primary disease process, or it can occur secondary to another underlying disease. Diseases commonly associated with secondary glomerular injury include:

  • Heartworm disease
  • Pyometra
  • Pancreatitis
  • Infectious diseases (bacterial, fungal, tick-borne)
  • Cancerous diseases
  • Immune mediated (autoimmune) diseases

Symptoms of glomerular disease

In and of itself, protein loss in the urine does not cause any symptoms. Therefore, many dogs with glomerular disease, particularly early on, appear completely normal. When symptoms do arise, they are usually related to one or more of the following:

  • The underlying disease process causing the glomerular damage (see the list above)
  • Kidney failure
  • Complications associated with glomerular damage (high blood pressure, decreased protein in the bloodstream, blood clot formation)

Some common symptoms observed in dogs with glomerular disease include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst and urine output
  • Weight loss
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

Documentation of excessive protein in the urine

There are four different laboratory tests that can be used to assess protein within the urine. They include:

  • Urinalysis: This provides “semi-quantitative results.” This means that a positive test result gives only a rough idea of how much protein is in the urine. The urinalysis is a very useful first screening test, but it is fraught with false positive results. Additionally, it is not always sensitive enough to detect the very earliest stages of glomerular damage. For these reasons, follow up testing via another methodology (see below) should be performed, either when the urinalysis is positive for protein or when the urinalysis is negative for protein but glomerular damage is suspected (e.g., dogs of breeds with inherited forms of glomerular disease).
  • Urine protein to creatinine ratio: This test helps quantify the amount of protein in the urine. This accomplishes two things. It verifies whether the amount of protein in a urine sample is normal or increased. Secondly, it establishes a baseline to which future samples can be compared. This helps in the monitoring of disease progression.
  • Microalbuminuria testing: This test detects very small amounts of a protein called albumin within the urine, even before proteinuria can be documented via a urinalysis. As such a sensitive test, it is recommended in the following situations:

• The results of other screening tests for proteinuria are negative in a dog with a serious illness, particularly one known to be associated with glomerular disease (see the causes of glomerular disease above).

• As a general health screening test in middle-aged and older dogs.

• As an early-age screening test for dogs with a possible inherited predisposition for glomerular disease.

  • 24-hour urine protein quantification: Back when I was a pup (before urine protein to creatinine ratios and microalbuminuria testing were available) we would house a dog in a “metabolic cage” or place a urinary catheter so as to collect every drop of urine produced over a 24-hour period. The amount of protein in this duration of urine was then measured. This methodology was a pain-in-the-you-know-what for everyone involved, particularly the poor dog. Thank goodness, such testing is now considered antiquated and is rarely if ever used.

Diagnosing glomerular disease

If a dog demonstrates persistent proteinuria (repeatable on multiple tests over the course of a few weeks), a battery of tests is typically recommended to rule out non-glomerular causes of excess protein within the urine such as urinary tract infection, stones, or bleeding. This testing typically includes the following:

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC)
  • Blood chemistry profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine culture
  • Abdominal ultrasound or x-rays

Other tests may be recommended for purposes of ruling out heartworm disease, infectious processes, cancer, and other diseases that can cause secondary glomerular damage. Diagnostics may include:

  • Heartworm testing
  • Chest x-rays
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Specific screening tests for infectious diseases

A clear-cut diagnosis of glomerular disease requires a kidney biopsy. This can be accomplished via surgery, laparoscopy, or with ultrasound guidance. Whichever methodology is used, collection of a kidney biopsy has the potential to cause significant complications. Thoughtful discussion with a veterinarian about risks and benefits should always precede a kidney biopsy.

Complications commonly caused by glomerular disease

As if glomerular disease isn’t enough to worry about, it is capable of causing a number of serious secondary issues including:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure): Can cause damage in heart, kidneys, brain, and/or retinas; hypertension promotes proteinuria
  • Hypercoagulability (an increased propensity to form blood clots): Thromboembolism (blood clot) formation can occur within any organ
  • Kidney failure

Treatment of glomerular disease

There are four primary goals when treating canine glomerular disease. How they are implemented will depend, in part, on the dog’s kidney function and degree of proteinuria.

  1. Identify and eliminate the underlying cause of the glomerular damage: Doing so may resolve the proteinuria altogether (the best outcome possible). For example, successful treatment of heartworm disease often eliminates the associated glomerular damage. Unfortunately, in many cases, the underlying cause of the glomerular disease cannot be identified or successfully eliminated.
  1. Attempt to lessen the degree of proteinuria: Doing so is the best bet for slowing the progression of kidney damage and other complications associated with glomerular disease. The mainstays of such therapy include:

• Feeding a diet that is low in quantity, but high in quality in terms of protein content: This decreases the amount of protein filtered by the kidneys.

• Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids: Their anti-inflammatory effects are thought to be responsible for decreasing proteinuria.

• Administration of an angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor drug (enalapril, benazepril): Alters microscopic blood flow at the level of the kidneys.

• Immunosuppressive drugs: Suppression of the immune system may help diminish glomerular inflammation.

  1. Treatment of glomerular disease complications: Examples of such treatments include administration of medications to control high blood pressure, anticoagulant therapy to help prevent blood clot formation, and daily subcutaneous fluids to manage kidney failure.
  1. Follow up monitoring: Once the diagnosis of glomerular disease is made and treatment is instituted, there will be a need for ongoing monitoring. The results of such monitoring will direct how the dog’s therapy should be adjusted. A typical follow up veterinary visit for a dog with glomerular disease would include:

• Discussion of how the dog is doing at home

• A thorough physical examination

• Blood pressure measurement

• Blood testing to evaluate kidney function

• Urine protein to creatinine ratio

The treatment of glomerular disease can be challenging, and the more experience a veterinarian has with this disease, the better. For this reason, when glomerular disorder is suspected or has been diagnosed in your dog, I strongly encourage consulting with a veterinarian who specializes in small animal internal medicine. To learn more about the treatment of glomerular disease, I invite you to read, “Consensus Recommendations for Standard Therapy of Glomerular Disease in Dogs” prepared by veterinarians who are members of the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS).

Prognosis

The earlier glomerular disease is detected and managed, the greater the likelihood of deterring a negative outcome. Left unchecked, glomerular disease is known to increase the severity and progression of kidney failure.

Canine glomerular disease is often associated with kidney failure which may progress very slowly, very quickly, or anything in between. Some dogs live for several years with glomerular disease. The likelihood of such an outcome is far greater with appropriate treatment and monitoring.

Nephrotic syndrome

Dogs with severe glomerular disease can progress to a condition that is referred to as nephrotic syndrome. This is characterized by the following four abnormalities:

  1. Excess protein loss in the urine
  2. Decreased protein (specifically albumin) within the blood stream
  3. Elevated blood cholesterol level
  4. Presence of edema (accumulation of watery fluid under the skin or within body cavities)

Nephrotic syndrome represents an advanced stage of glomerular disease. In addition to the treatment options mentioned above, measures to manage the edema (fluid drainage, specific medications) may be warranted.

Have you had any experience with glomerular disease in your dogs?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Midwest Canine Influenza Outbreak: A New Virus Within the United States

Photo Credit: Steven Turville

If you keep tabs on dog-related news, you’re probably already aware of the recent outbreak of canine influenza in the Midwest. Chicago appears to be at the epicenter of the epidemic.

The first dogs affected by this virus were observed in mid-March of this year. Since then, more than 1,000 known cases have been reported in and around Chicago, and there have even been a few deaths.

New virus within the United States

Until a week ago, the virus responsible for this canine influenza outbreak was thought to be H398, a strain of Influenza A that has been present in the United States for some time. Cornell University (thumbs up to my alma mater) recently reported that scientists there have isolated a brand new influenza virus from affected dogs in the Midwest. This virus, referred to as H3N2, is closely related to strains of influenza affecting dog populations in South Korea and China. H3N2 is now making its debut appearance within the United States. How the virus was introduced here is anyone’s guess.

Dogs living within the United States have no natural protection against H3N2 because their immune systems have never been exposed to it before. For this reason, it will remain highly contagious until canine populations develop immunity, either through natural infection or vaccination.

The contagious stage of canine influenza begins a few days before symptoms arise. In other words, the healthy-appearing pup at the dog park or doggie daycare center may be on the verge of developing viral symptoms. Spread of the disease occurs via respiratory secretions (discharge from nose, mouth, and eyes). Both dogs and cats are susceptible to the H3N2 virus. It is not transmissible to humans.

Symptoms

The symptoms most commonly associated with influenza virus include: high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. In the best-case scenario, an infected dog may show only mild symptoms or none at all. Worst-case scenario, pneumonia may develop. Pneumonia was the likely cause of death in five dogs who have reportedly succumbed to this disease.

Diagnosis

Many infectious bacterial and viral diseases are capable of producing the symptoms described above. Knowing that H3N2 is the culprit requires specialized testing performed on a mouth or nose swab. Cornell reports that the development of a blood test capable of diagnosing this disease is in the works.

Treatment

Treatment of influenza ideally involves supportive and symptomatic care until the dog’s immune system wins the battle against the virus (requires approximately two weeks for most dogs). Therapy may include supplemental fluids, special diets to entice appetite, anti-inflammatory medications, and cough suppressants. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent secondary bacterial infection.

If evidence of pneumonia is present, much more intensive therapy is indicated and may include hospitalization for intravenous fluids and antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, and 24-hour monitoring by a veterinarian.

Prevention

At this time, it is not known if the vaccine currently available to prevent H3N8 is also protective against the newer H3N2 strain. There may be some cross over protection, but just how much is uncertain. I suspect that updated information about the effectiveness of the current vaccine and/or development of a new vaccine will be forthcoming in the near future. For now, I recommend discussing use of the current influenza vaccine with your veterinarian.

If you live in or around Chicago, or if you learn that influenza cases are beginning to pop up in your neck of the woods, know that the very best protection involves keeping your dog away from popular, public, canine venues such as dog parks, boarding kennels, grooming parlors, pet stores, and doggie daycare facilities.

Please know that there is no cause for panic. The vast majority of dogs affected by this new strain of influenza fully recover. Talk with your veterinarian about the incidence of canine influenza in your locale to help determine the level of concern for your dogs.

Have you had any experience with canine influenza? If you live in the Midwest, are you taking specific measures to protect your dog?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

New Information about Jerky Treats for Pets

Since 2007, we’ve known that chicken jerky treats manufactured in China can cause gastrointestinal and/or kidney issues in some dogs. Until recently, virtually all commercially sold jerky treats in the United States were manufactured in China. Despite extensive investigations by numerous experts, the actual cause(s) of jerky-induced illnesses has not been identified.

When jerky-associated problems were first documented, savvy proprietors of many independently owned pet stores quit stocking Chinese-manufactured jerky treats. More recently, many of the big box stores have followed suit. These pet store changes have seemingly produced positive results. According to a February 2015 Seattle Times article, “For the first time in seven years, complaints that jerky pet treats made in China are sickening and killing America’s animals, mostly dogs, have fallen sharply.” Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman, Siobhan DeLancey reasoned, “We’re not sure if this is because the products are off the market, because people are more aware of the problem, or because some of the products have been reformulated.”

New jerky-related problems

Ms. DeLancey was recently back in the news responding to reports of illnesses caused by jerky treats manufactured within the United States. In response to these new claims filed by veterinarians Ms. DeLancey stated, “We have found some of these products may contain ingredients from outside of the U.S. The FDA continues its investigation into these, as well as other, jerky treats potentially linked to illnesses.” The implication is that jerky treats manufactured within the United States don’t necessarily contain domestic ingredients. Whether or not the source of ingredients explains recently reported illnesses remains anyone’s guess.

Some dogs who responded adversely to jerky treats manufactured within the United States experienced vomiting and diarrhea. More seriously affected dogs developed kidney failure, and some developed Fanconi Syndrome, a rare form of kidney disease seen primarily as an inherited disorder in the Basenji breed. Dr. Urs Giger, a veterinary geneticist, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and leading expert on Fanconi Syndrome, reported that his laboratory began seeing many more non-Basenji cases of Fanconi Syndrome in or around 2007, all seemingly related to jerky consumption. Four hundred Fanconi cases were identified between 2009 and 2012, and Giger reports that he continues to see new cases weekly. The most recent cases are seemingly associated with consumption of jerky treats manufactured within the United States.

Jerky treats and your pet

What does this information mean in terms of your dog’s health? Jerky-induced illnesses remain a reality, and a “Manufactured within the United States” product label is not a guarantee of safety. Until the actual cause(s) of jerky-related illness is identified, I strongly encourage you to avoid feeding jerky products to your dogs, regardless of where they are manufactured. If your dog really loves jerky (can’t live without it!), consider making your own. Until further notice, please stay away from the store bought stuff.

Based on this information, will you be altering your dog’s jerky habit?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.