Don’t Let Your Dog’s Heart Break

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.

The Dog Days

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!

Rx From Your Vet: Laugh Long, Laugh Often

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!

Flying With Pets

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.


We All Make Mistakes

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!

Welcome Dr. Karen Vanderloo!

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!

Did you hug your Vet Tech today? Don’t…

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.

Help For Animals Effected By The Hurricane

There are terrible things happening in this country right now and plenty of people suffering. We’ve received several calls asking how people can contribute to the efforts in Texas to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Of course, there’s a lot in the news about how to donate to people in need (check out the Red Cross link below), but there are plenty of animals that are suffering, too. If you are interested in helping, please check out the links below. There’s a lot of good people trying to make a difference. And plenty of people and animals that need it.  Thanks to those who have thought to ask and are giving their support.

Help for people:

Help for animals:

Celebrating 20 Years of A Breed Apart Animal Hospital!

On Sunday we celebrated our anniversary! It’s been 20 years of A Breed Apart Animal Hospital as of this month. So everyone dragged their very supportive families up to Devil’s Lake and we celebrated together in the sun. Lots of food, lots of drinks, lots of games and screaming happy children. Most importantly, a floating unicorn! We all got a turn and I can’t think of a better way to honor the amazing women who have made this clinic what it is. I’ve known a lot of very strong, smart women and I love that this particular group has come together to build on each of our strengths, cover for each of our weaknesses and generally made us better than we are alone.

Drs. Kate Peterson and Claudia Meyers began it all 20 years ago and nurtured it as it grew. But we can’t just thank the two great vets who started it all, nor the awesome technicians who keep this place going strong. We really need to thank all of YOU. Our clients who care about their pets so much. Our clients who pass our name along at dinner parties and book clubs and farmers markets. And our clients who have become our friends. We appreciate everything you give us and your support in making this clinic what it is.

We look forward to many more celebrations together! Thanks to everyone for being a part of this great journey!

Welcome Dr. Zimmerman!

Please join us in welcoming our newest team member, Dr. Rheba Zimmerman. Check out Dr. Zimmerman’s bio on our website. We threw her into the frying pan yesterday and she did great. Dr. Meyers and Dr. Washabaugh are always here to provide support as she settles into her new position here, but we expect she will do well all on her own. Welcome Dr. Zimmerman!

Dr. Zimmerman’s DVM degree was awarded from the University of Wisconsin in 2016. Before returning to school to become a veterinarian, she taught in the sciences, including veterinary science. She is a passionate Wisconsin Badger fan, attending as many events as possible with her husband and young son, is a national tournament golfer (formerly the #1 golfer on the UW’s golf team), and is a professional clown!