We will be posting little tidbits of information and anecdotes from the vets here on our website. Unless it says otherwise, these are generally posted by your friendly neighborhood vet, Dr. Kate Washabaugh. Check in occasionally or “Like” us on Facebook to stay posted. Thanks!
Guess the number one question I am asked in my office. Think about it. Something you do for your pet every single day, all it’s life. You feed it, of course. So the number one question I get is… “what’s the best food to feed my pet?”. My clients LOVE their pets. They want to feed them THE BEST and they want them to live forever. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of information flying around lately, specifically about dog food. I’ve been avoiding writing about this because, frankly, it’s HARD. There’s so much information out there. There’s so many strong opinions. And there’s all this data that is just now being collected. And then there’s the pain in the butt issues of CORRELATION and CAUSE AND EFFECT data. Ugh!
But it’s time to address some of the most recent issues. Many of you smarty pants owners are already asking in your office visits and it’s time to stop pussy footing (ha) around the issue. Because they are affecting the lives of our dogs. This past year there was an FDA warning about some specific diets being linked to the development of cardiac disease in dogs. These diets were correlated with the development of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs are dying from it. An excerpt from the FDA statement:
“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…”.
The issue is being investigated, but at this time there is a strong suspicion that diets that are potato or legume based (meaning, “Grain Free”), are of an unusual protein source, or are considered boutique-types of small batch foods may play a roll.
What we know is that no matter how “high quality” the food you feed, the tested nutritional content is what matters. Your dog does not need a keto-diet. The current Grain-Free fad that has taken over the dog food market is a reflection of current human dietary trends. Yes, there is the rare case of diet intolerances in our pets, but for the most part, if you dog has no health issues, he or she should be eating an all-inclusive, broad ingredient diet.
Most importantly, that diet should meet nutritional standards. Many of us assume because we are paying a lot of money for a “high quality” or “organic” dog food and our local pet store is recommending it, that the food in question has been tested and is adequate in it’s nutrition (if not better). The fact is that the majority of dog foods are NOT tested. Many foods follow AAFCO guidelines and are thus “compliant”, but few actually undergo feeding trials, or even employ veterinary nutritionists. The costs involved in maintaining a veterinary nutritionist and running these feeding trials is substantial, so many of our small batch foods simply can’t tolerate the costs involved in actual testing.
So what do we recommend? I am loathe to name specific brands at the risk of sounding like a sales person. I’ll dance around it like crazy in the office if you try to pin my down. Which is silly. This IS my job, afterall. So talk to us. I would encourage every dog owner to talk to their veterinarian about diet, but also to do their homework. Google, check out websites, and call the contact numbers for your pet food company (they are required to list those phone numbers). Find out how many veterinary nutritionists they employ. What food trials did they actually conduct (and what was the sample size). Was it for nutrition or just palatablility? Most importantly, do they meet AAFCO (see below) standards? What I would NOT do is believe the hype. Don’t fall for pretty packaging with wolves running through the woods, or words like “natural”, “holistic”, “single protein source”, and “organic”. Don’t look to the average pet store employee to guide you through these complexities (are they nutritionists? Did they go to vet school?), and don’t project our paleo obsession on your pet.
I did a little Google myself. I plugged in “what pet food companies have veterinary nutritionists” and “pet food companies that conduct feeding trials”, etc. The answers were a little shocking. I also found this really great article from Tufts summing up how to chose your food. Check it out:
This is one excerpt from the article I found pretty helpful. Stop reading the ingredient list first (I’m guilty of this too!). Start with the AAFCO statement:
“Instead of starting with the less-than-useful ingredient list to make a decision on pet food, go to the two most useful pieces of information on a pet food label. One of these is the “Nutritional Adequacy statement.” This may also be called the “AAFCO statement” because it is based on the nutritional profiles that that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes annually.
All pet foods sold across state lines must print one of three statements clearly on the package. These statements answer these important questions:
- Does the diet contain all the essential nutrients that a pet needs?
- How that was determined?
- For which age or life stage is the diet appropriate?
Pull out your pet’s food and look for the statement on the label. These statements are typically written in very small font on the back of the bag or can (or on the side in the fold). They may be difficult to find. It’s worth looking for, though, as this little bit of information can be really valuable. It should look like one of the following:
- Product X is formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for Y species and Z life stage. Life stages include “maintenance,” or “growth and reproduction,” which is frequently called “all life stages”. All life stages means it meets growth/reproduction requirements in which case it will automatically meet adult requirements because a puppy or kitten has higher calorie and nutrient requirements than do adults.
- Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Product X provides complete and balanced nutrition for Y species, and Z life stage. Life stages for feeding tests include “maintenance,” “growth,” “gestation and lactation” (pregnancy and nursing), or “all life stages.” (The latter means they’ve done feeding trials for both gestation and growth.)
- This product is intended for intermittent and supplemental feeding only.
If your pet’s label had one of the first two examples, good news, it’s nutritionally complete and balanced. However, if your label had the third statement then that food is not meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. The one exception to this is if your pet is eating a veterinary diet used to manage a medical condition. Some of these veterinary diets are specifically designed this way to help manage a medical condition. However, for diets purchased over-the-counter, you definitely want it to have all the nutrients your dog or cat needs to stay healthy.
Remember this caveat, though: if the food is complete and balanced—examples 1 and 2 above—that means that it is supposed to contain minimum levels of all the nutrients that a normal, healthy pet requires (and avoids going over any maximums). It does not guarantee that the company actually tested the final product to be sure that it still had those levels (we’ve tested numerous pet foods from stores that do not meet AAFCO minimums). This is why it’s so important to use a food made by a manufacturer with the highest nutritional expertise and the most stringent quality control measures – not just one with good marketing.”
So that’s it folks. Next time you’re gazing down the aisle at the beautiful bags of food, consider how you’re choosing the nutrition your dog eats every single day. And be sure to talk to us. We’ll keep you posted as the data comes together, and we can help guide you through these challenging issues.
It takes a village to raise a kid. As a mom, I know this is true. It’s the same with puppies.
Two weeks ago I brought a puppy home for the first time in 16 years and surprised the kids. He’s a cutie. And that’s all that’s saving him at this point. That and the fact that I had a whole squad of supporters standing behind me, especially at work. Even as a vet you forget (or block out!) how challenging life with a puppy is. It moves when the wind blows? Sure, I’ll eat that. It’s soft and important to you? Sure, I’ll eat that. Lego? Sure, I’ll eat that. Clearly, I went with a Labrador (lol). But there’s more, of course. You just cleaned there? Yep, I’ll pee on that. It’s negative 25 degrees outside? Gotta pee. You looked at me funny? Whoops, I just peed. Sleeping has taken on a new priority status. Because of course, 4 a.m. is the best time to play.
But the hilarity of watching a puppy in the snow for the first time, the quiet presence of someone next to you when you finally sit down at the end of the day, the snoring by your feet while you work, the adventures outside, and most importantly, the joy it brings to your children, more than compensate for all the chewed up, peed on objects and sleepless nights.
This has been a good reminder for me of what the reality of puppy-hood is like. And it helps me be a better vet every time I get to experience all the things my clients do. From the trials of early puppy hood all the way to the challenges of aging and agonizing loss at the end. If you plan to embark on this adventure, plan the logistics, find a puppy friend (thanks Murphy!), embrace your supporters, arrange your work schedule, and give us a call to get all the basics figured out. But mostly, be prepared to be surprised. That’s where the fun happens.
(Enjoy Murphy schooling Max. Yes, apparently veterinarians DO play with puppies all day!)
It’s Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week!!!
Each year we take this week to celebrate our awesome Veterinary Technicians here at A Breed Apart Animal Hospital.
I was discussing it with my son, Sam, this week and making plans for what we would like to do to celebrate these amazing women. He didn’t understand the idea of an “appreciation week” (he’s only 8). We had a long discussion about how these techs are the driving force behind the clinic. They get little glory, but we can’t do our jobs without them. They are the ones that are recovering a patient after a challenging surgery, holding that difficult dog for a nail trim, listening to an owner work through their worry on the phone, triaging emergencies, and sometimes literally running to help the vets between helping the owners between helping the patients. And, oh yeah, getting generally pretty messy while they do it. They are also the calm voices when things get crazy in the back, they often stay late to pitch in when the witching hour hits, and they go the extra mile for you and for us. They genuinely care about our patients, as well as each other, and you can see it in the way they do their jobs so well. After I described it all to Sam, his eyes went wide and he agreed that our technicians deserve all the appreciation we can give them. We wish we could give them more and that every day they were showered with the appreciation they deserve. This week we’ll have to manage with lots of food and fun.
Please join me in celebrating our great technicians, Chris, Melissa, Julie, and Katie. Pam is working on her technician license so we’re including her, too! They are the shoulders that boost us up and keep us strong.
Thank you to the great Veterinary Technician Team at A Breed Apart!!!!!!!
Many of you have heard about the recent FDA findings regarding heart disease and dog food. Yes, it’s true – the food you are giving your friend may be hurting their hearts. Taurine is an important component in our pet food. Some diets, especially “boutique” and ultra limited diets, are low in taurine and as a result, we’re seeing increased incidents of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) heart disease with sad consequences. We’ve been fielding lots of questions regarding the issue. Please check out the FDA statement and link below.
What’s our favorite food that is safe and healthy? That’s a hard question, but the vets here would recommend a balanced commercial diet that doesn’t necessarily exclude grains. Many people think grains cause allergies in dogs so they pride themselves on their “grain free” diet. But keep in mind, dogs are omnivores – that means they need a little of everything. And in fact often our food allergies can be a result of sensitivities to protein sources, not necessarily the grain source in a food, so a variety of ingredients is best. Choosing a company that stands behind its research is a good idea as well, so do your research.
If you are worried that your dog may not be getting the nutrients it needs, the best thing to do is immediately switch to a well rounded commercial diet, schedule an exam to check for heart disease, consider an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and/or check blood levels for taurine (the food component that may be responsible for our heart disease cases). Call us with your questions anytime!
Keep your hearts healthy, everyone. There’s a lot of love to give!
Link to the FDA statement for further information-
FDA Investigating Potential Connection Between Diet and Cases of Canine Heart Disease
July 12, 2018
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.
The FDA encourages pet owners and veterinary professionals to report cases of DCM in dogs suspected of having a link to diet by using the electronic Safety Reporting Portal or calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. Please see the link below about “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint” for additional instructions.
School ends this week. The pools open. The baseball games have started. It’s summer!
It’s easy to forget over those long winter months, but there are some risks that come with this great season. Be sure to protect your pet as you enjoy the end of hibernation season.
NEVER leave your dog in the car. Ever.
Even with the windows cracked that car gets overwhelmingly hot pretty darn quick. It is never safe to leave a pet in the car. Don’t do it. No matter how tempting it is.
Be sure to have plenty of water on hand.
Your dog is wearing a fur coat. Even in 90 degree weather. So be sure to bring a water bottle and bowl. Dogs are easy to train to drink out of handy spouts, or even the bottle itself. It’s not ideal to be sharing community water bowls at the dog park (think about where all those mouths have been! Ick), so be sure to bring your own supply.
Smoosh faced, over weight, and older pets have a harder time.
Not every dog and cat is equally equipped to handle the heat. Take pity and walk your squish faced dogs in the early morning and late evenings. Be sure to run fans and air conditioning for your pets even if you are immune to the heat. Limit activity if breathing is compromised for any reason. Dogs cool themselves by panting. If they can’t breath well, they can’t cool well.
Your dog can sunburn, too!
Every year I run out the door on that first sunny day without remembering my sunblock and then I pay the price (and then I don’t forget for the rest of the summer!). Dogs can burn too if they like to lie with their bellies to the sun or have thin coats. In the age of the pampered pet there are all kinds of protective clothing you can purchase (for the rain, snow, or sun) and there are even pet sunblock products. Be sure to avoid using human products as ingredients like zinc can be toxic if swallowed.
Not all dogs swim.
Not every dog is a great swimmer. Or is smart enough to get out of the water when they’re tired. Use a doggie lifevest, monitor activity carefully, and be prepared to help your friend out if they over-do their aquatic adventures. And don’t forget to check feet carefully after swimming. Pads soften in the water and it’s easy to get cuts and scrapes that may need attention.
Remember that the fleas and ticks had a long winter, too.
The critters are hungry. Use a good flea and tick preventative. Each year we see more and more tick disease and some of it is pretty devastating. And fleas? They’re just disgusting! Avoid them all with a good preventative.
Enjoy the beautiful spring, everyone! Get outside with your pets and enjoy the sun. Be safe and happy!
The vets just met to review and end Dr. Vanderloo’s official probationary period (over wine, so you know it wasn’t bad!). She’s been with us now since December and we are delighted she will be remaining with us for a good long time. Dr. Vanderloo jumped right in to the madness that was a three doctor practice during a busy time (with only two active doctors!) and it was like she’d been here for years. What a relief to Dr. Meyers and myself! We could finally find time in the schedule to pee!
But the review got me thinking. Usually I write about the medical aspects of our clinic and try to give our clients some pointers on things they might not be thinking of when it comes to their pets. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that might come as a surprise. Part of hiring a good vet isn’t just her (or his) medical prowess or communication with clients (though those things are certainly important!). It’s also about how she fits into the culture of our clinic. In “The Back”, the vets are dealing with the nitty gritty of anesthesia, surgical procedures, in hospital patients, and working through tough cases as we balance the myriad of other vet and business tasks. The techs are running to assist us (we are NEEDY!) and take care of all those in-hospital patients (at the very least, think poop. In large quantities. Frequently). And things can get exhausting and stressful, especially when there are patients who we are really worried about.
So what gets us through when things get bad? Or sad? Yes, there’s occasional tears. But what helps us keep going is really our laughter. We laugh A LOT in The Back. We are certainly irreverent. And perhaps some of us over-share (okay, not “perhaps”). And some might even think we are a little unprofessional in our familiarity with each other and our lack of employer/employee distance (as in hardly any). But we truly enjoy each other and support each other. I feel so lucky to work at a place where that is the case. Not many people enjoy their jobs, their patients, their clients, AND the people they work with. It’s certainly been one of the most challenging parts about integrating new staff.
I appreciate this group of people who get my twisted sense of humor and have my back. And I am grateful for each one of the team that add their own twist right back. Happily Dr. Vanderloo is no exception.
Laugh long, laugh often, Everyone!
There’s been a lot of news in the pet world lately. I’ve seen discussions of vaccines, food recalls, and the turmoil over emotional support pets flying with owners (Dexter the Peacock didn’t manage to make the cut). And most recently, there was the sad death of a French Bulldog on an airline flight and the airline shipment of a German Shepard bound for Missouri who ended up in Japan. Our sympathies go out to those poor owners.
We talk a lot about traveling with pets here at the clinic. Let’s face it, traveling with pets can be scary. When it comes to driving with pets, our owners worry about their pet’s anxiety (and thus THEIR anxiety) most. But with flying there are so many more issues. Owners need to navigate the rules of the airline, as well as the concern over the pet’s safety. Their are health certificates and, in some cases, extensive veterinary requirements, that take attention and effort. Airlines all have their own rules and those rules are frequently changing. Especially after this weeks sad events.
In general, our recommendation is to avoid flying with your pets when possible. Car travel is safer and more flexible. And if you’re worried about anxiety, we can help with that. If you MUST fly, be sure to check your airlines rules well beforehand. Most require a health certificate and sometimes other veterinary statements and we can arrange an appointment for that. If you have questions we are happy to help – just give us a call.
Even the professionals make mistakes sometimes. Meet Zig, one of the vet’s dogs here at A Breed Apart Animal Hospital. Zig managed to scavange some really delicious chocolate and now he is paying the price.
Remember as you prepare your Valentine’s Day treats for your sweeties – be sure to move the chocolate out of reach. And then move it MORE out of reach. You’d be amazed what a motivated dog can manage to get a hold of. We all know accidents happen so if you’re dog manages to get the treat that was meant for someone else, be sure to drop us a call right away. We can let you know if your pet ingested a toxic dose of chocolate and requires veterinary intervention (like poor Zig!) or he’ll be just fine while you’re busy buying more Valentine’s gifts at the last minute. We’ve all been there.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all our furry friends!
Please join us in welcoming Dr. Karen Vanderloo to A Breed Apart Animal Hospital!! Dr. Vanderloo will be joining the practice as of December 4th and will be working with us on a part time basis. She has been in practice in Oregon, WI for the 10 years since graduating with Dr. Kate Washabaugh from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007. We are excited to bring her energy and high quality medicine into our practice and look forward to the synergy that is sure to come. Because she is so experienced, we are also looking forward to her jumping right in and getting to know all our great clients. When we talked about the things she is most looking forward to, she seemed truly excited to develop the meaningful relationships with all of you that Dr. Meyers and I value so much. Be sure to introduce yourself when you’re next in. Welcome Dr. Vanderloo!
Because she’s probably covered with anal glands or feces or urine or blood. Or sweat from running to help a patient while simultaneously attending to a client and helping a vet and keeping track of all the other invisible things that are going on behind the scenes. She’s probably scraped up and bruised from battling recalcitrant cats and dogs and making sure the vets don’t get injured. She doesn’t have time for a hug because her brain is busy monitoring all the vitals and reading all the monitors that are keeping your pet alive under anesthesia or reading the organisms on a slide or problem solving why that dang fluid pump keeps alarming. She’s focused on scaling that awful tartar or recovering that dysphoric patient after surgery or calming a distraught parent in the phone or educating an owner about heart worm. Or fleas. Or ticks. Or puppy training. Or vaccines. Or diarrhea. Or inappropriate urination. Or…
It’s National Vet Tech Week. And we have the absolute best. I count them all as friends as well as employees and I am the first to say I couldn’t do this job without them.
So don’t hug them. But do thank them. They are the quiet heroes that make it all happen.
Thank you Melissa, Katie, Chris, Julie, and (vet tech in training) Pam.