Are Grain-Free Diets Good for Dogs?
Grain-free diets have been popular for some time now. However, a recent increase in heart disease in dogs eating certain types of diets may give some concern that diet could play a role in causing heart disease. There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding diet and owners are often left very confused when choosing a healthy diet for their dog.
A condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has been caused by taurine deficiency in some cats which is why standard cat foods are supplemented with taurine. Recent theories and research suggest that the up-tick in cases of DCM in dogs may be due to taurine deficiency in the grain-free diets that seem to be so popular.
Many pet owners buy into the grain-free myth. The fact is that food allergies are very uncommon, so there’s no benefit of feeding pet foods containing exotic ingredients. While the Internet has accused grains of causing nearly every disease known to dogs, they do not typically contribute to health problems and are used in pet food as a nutritious source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. There have been a few studies that suggest that exotic proteins such as kangaroo meat may be to blame for DCM as well.
There is still much we don’t know about the link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs. Our strongest recommendation at this time is that unless specifically recommended by your veterinarian, there is no benefit to feeding grain-free diets to your dog. High quality grain-inclusive diets are widely available and will provide all the nutrients your dog needs to stay active and healthy.
If you're concerned about your pet's diet or want to talk to a veterinarian about what type of food may be best for your pet, please feel free to call us at (608) 845-6700 to schedule an appointment. We'd be more than happy to help.
Keeping Your Pets Safe From Pesticides and Herbicides
by Dr. Hoelscher
Spring is the time for dandelions– beautiful little yellow flowers that fill our yards. Many people despise these flowers, and consequently, they hire companies to spray herbicides and pesticides to eliminate the unwanted “weeds” and bugs.
You may ask yourself, “what impact does this have on our pets as they play in our manicured, green, weed-free lawns?” A six year long study conducted by Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine answered this question.
Are Rodenticides Safe?
When homeowners set out poisons aimed at one animal, it often results in the death of many other animals. Rodenticides are a prime example of collateral damage.
Veterinary hospitals are far too familiar with treating rodenticide toxicities. Many pets will either ingest the bait directly thinking it is something tasty or just a toy, or catch and eat a rodent who has already ingested some of the bait. Small children are also at great risk of poisonings. According to Poison Control, 10,000 children are treated every year in the US for rodenticide ingestion.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, "Harm to wildlife from rodenticides is widespread: Poisonings have been documented in at least 25 wild species in California, including mountain lions, hawks and endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and northern spotted owls." That is only one state, however, and even in California the worst of the poisons are still available for commercial use.
How To Make Your Home More Senior Pet Friendly
Our pets are more than just pets. They are our best friends and family members. As they age, they often need help to navigate their surroundings and to be comfortable in their everyday life. We generally consider a dog or cat to be “senior” when they reach seven years of age. Larger dogs, unfortunately, have shorter life spans. Cats tend to live longer than dogs, so depending on weight and breed, some cats may not be “seniors” until they reach 10 or 11 years of age.
How Can You Help?
1. Raise their food and water
As your pet ages, it may become more difficult for them to lower their neck to eat food or drink water. Purchase or build a raised platform to elevate the food and water bowls. Food bowls for cats should be placed in a location where your cat can approach from any direction and not be forced to have their back exposed to other animals in the household. Cats may actually need their food and water dishes moved to a lower location as jumping can be difficult or painful.
2. Modify the Litterbox
For older cats, arthritis pain can make it difficult to jump over the side of a regular litter box. There are litter boxes on the market with lower openings designed for older cats, but you can also use a storage bin with an entry way cut out in the front. If you have more than one cat, make sure to have one more litter box than the number of cats that you have.
Why Does My Dog Always Get Ear Infections Late In the Summer?
It’s not a coincidence that your dog gets ear infections at the same time each year! It is very likely that your dog is having an allergic reaction to weed pollens that are present in the environment late in the summer.
When an allergic dog contacts the offending pollen, his immune system reacts by releasing histamines and other chemicals into the skin, causing intense itching. Often the itching affects several areas of the body, such as feet, legs, armpits and face. Sometimes the only area affected is the ears. Rubbing at the ears then allows yeast and bacteria (normal residents on the skin of the ear) to proliferate and cause an infection.
Tips for Running with Your Dog
As veterinarians, we spend many hours educating our clients on the importance of exercise, nutrition and obesity in their pets. We work hard every day to deal with conditions such as arthritis, joint injuries and metabolic diseases that could have been prevented by a nutrition and fitness program.
Even dogs who aren't overweight can exhibit behavior problems due to the lack of exercise. It is so important to maintain a well-balanced, enriched lifestyle for our pets. It excites me when I talk to pet owners who understand the importance of fitness for themselves as well as their dogs and ask me about safe exercise programs for their canine companions.
How Soon Should You Start Running with Your Dog?
The absolute first step in starting any exercise program, as with ourselves, is to have your pet's overall health assessed by your veterinarian. There are many factors to be considered when it comes to determining whether your dog can be a runner or not. For example, breed, conformation (the way the skeletal system is aligned during development), age, etc. For most dogs, regular running should not be started until they are 8-9 months old. You risk causing permanent damage to joints and bones if regular, high impact exercise is initiated too early. Large and giant breed dogs take much longer to develop their musculoskeletal system than medium and small breed dogs, so 8-9 months may even be too early for them.
Deer Ticks on the Rise in Southern and Eastern Wisconsin
We have had a number of complaints from clients that they are seeing more ticks on their dogs this Spring than ever before, often after topical application of tick preventatives like Frontline Plus or Parastar Plus. Does that mean the products aren't working? Not necessarily.
We asked UW-Madison tick expert Professor Susan Paskewitz about this problem. She said this:
"Deer ticks have been steadily increasing in numbers and expanding the range in southern and eastern Wisconsin. In Madison, we couldn't even find them 4 years ago, yet we picked up more than 100 adults on April 26 in a small urban conservancy on the east side. So, one thing that may be different for your clients is that the density of ticks suddenly could be higher than it has ever been in their particular area and so they notice more ticks on the animals."