Tag

dogs

The rise of heart disease in dogs: is there a pet food link?

By | News, Pet Health

By Dr. Nigel Gumley

The Food and Drug Administration in the US recently published the third report looking into a possible link between pet food and heart disease in dogs (see https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy ).  The history behind this investigation started with a concern with dogs being diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in breeds not usually associated with this condition.

DCM occurs when the heart muscle weakens over time and is unable to pump blood effectively around the body.  It is a well-known genetic condition in breeds such as Newfoundland dogs, Great Danes and other giant breeds, but also in Dobermans and King Charles Cavalier Spaniels.  Affected dogs can present with an acquired heart murmur or abnormal heart rhythm heard on a routine veterinary exam, or may present clinically with exercise intolerance, coughing and heavy breathing, or even fainting and collapse.  In extreme cases, dogs can die suddenly.

Since 1 January 2014 until 30 April 2019, the FDA has received reports of 515 dogs and 9 cats with DCM, but 222 of these have been reported since 1 December 2018, suggesting that more dogs are becoming affected.  Many of these dogs are of breeds where DCM is not an expected genetic disease.

An association has been suggested between certain pet foods and dogs developing DCM, with the finding that over 90% of these are “grain-free” and over 93% contained peas and/or lentils.  Common brands include Acana, Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, Fromm, Merrick, Natural Balance, Orijen and Nutro, among others.  The FDA and affiliate laboratories have failed, to date, to find any difference in these diets and other foods with respect to protein, fat, moisture, fibre, starch, and some amino acids previously associated with heart disease such as cystine, methionine and taurine.  Taurine has specifically been suggested since there has been a rise in Golden Retrievers diagnosed with DCM and finding that the dogs are taurine-deficient.  While the diets are normal in taurine content, possible factors might be resulting in poor taurine absorption or metabolism.

As of this time, the FDA is conducting more tests and working with owners of affected dogs to investigate for other possible links, such as plant poisonings and exposure to heavy metals.   Specialists are collecting blood and urine samples and conducting serial heart checks in affected dogs to look for other evidence of causes.  Pet food companies are also working with the FDA to examine how pet food may play a role.

At Cedarview Animal Hospital, we have found two pets this year with suspiciously poor heart contractility and both were being fed grain-free diets.  Both dogs were otherwise apparently healthy but has suspicious findings on their exams and routine tests and showed reduced heart function on heart tests.  While we can suspect heart disease from clinical signs such as new heart murmurs, coughing, breathing problems, or exercise intolerance, more specific heart tests such as a cardiac ultrasound or echocardiogram are needed to find evidence that DCM is a concern.

We will continue to watch for more information coming out of the FDAs investigation into this syndrome and potential links to pet food.  It is unlikely that most dogs fed grain-free foods will develop problems, but anyone concerned with the condition may want to avoid this category of food or any of those listed by the FDA.  For clients concerned with whether their pet may be affected clinically with heart disease, please call us for an examination of the pet and discussion about how to investigate further if needed.

Books, Baths & Beyond

By | In the community

by Karen Luker

“It’s time for school!”  When Lily hears her mother say these words, she begrudgingly heads down the stairs to the laundry tub.  Her sister Daisy recognizes the routine, and positions herself in front of the door in the hopes that she might get to go as well.  But sixteen-year-old Daisy can only watch with envy as her sister, 13-year-old Lily, goes through her regular grooming routine in preparation for her favourite day of the week.  Although she doesn’t like her bath, Lily does enjoy the one-on-one attention provided by her mom, Mary Jane, and the excitement of attending local schools and libraries in her role as an Ottawa Therapy Dog.

Mary Jane Maffini is a former librarian turned mystery novelist.  When she isn’t accepting awards or attending conferences, Mary Jane is mom to her two loving dachshunds, Lily and Daisy.  She is also the leader of a one-woman-one-canine team of visitors to local schools and libraries, where she helps children develop their reading and other skills.

dachsund therapy dog reading with young girl

• Kaiya is all smiles after having finished her reading session with Lily at Berrigan Public School.

Mary Jane has been a volunteer with Ottawa Therapy Dogs for more than 10 years.  While Daisy is now retired, Lily continues to be a regular visitor in the Ottawa area.  For four years, she attended Berrigan Public School, where she helped up to four children with their reading every week.

Mary Jane refers to herself as “an invisible handler”.  By this, she means that students focus on her dogs, forgetting there is a human at the end of the leash who provides the support.  Kids are so excited to be chosen to participate in the program that they burst with excitement whenever they are asked to leave the classroom for their “remedial” session.

There are other ways that Berrigan students have learned from Daisy and Lily which extend beyond reading.  Some children who have been raised to fear dogs have gradually developed an appreciation for the human-animal bond.  Their parents have as well.  For example, some children were able to sit with Mary Jane and her companion, but not touch the dog.  Gradually, families have come to recognize and accept that touching a dog can be a safe and beneficial experience.

Mary Jane emphasizes the importance of encouraging children to develop a joy of reading.  Sometimes, it’s not about the mechanics of decoding a word or answering a question about a story correctly; it can be the simple act of laughing together about something silly a character has done, or sharing thoughts about a great illustration (think of Snoopy crying!)  As Mary Jane puts it, “The joy of books hasn’t come to those children yet, and Lily helps.  Many kids who have trouble reading just don’t have that joy.  Because being with a dog is a pleasurable experience, Lily can help be the bridge.”

Mary Jane recalls an 8-year-old student who was new to Canada.  Although he could sound out any word, he did not have the knowledge of English he needed to understand most of what he was reading.  Mary Jane set up a familiar scenario whereby Lily didn’t understand either, and together, Mary Jane and the student figured out the vocabulary and the sentence structure required for “Lily” to learn.  Mary Jane sums it up best, stating, “The students all get what I’m trying to do through the dog, but they just play along.  Teaching the dog gives them a purpose and takes the spotlight off them needing the help.  They can relax, and they are thrilled when I tell them Lily thinks they are helping her.”

two dachsund therapy dogs wearing scarves

Daisy and Lily don their scarves for their visits.

Being a dachshund, Lily isn’t shy about expressing her likes and dislikes.  She has favourite stories, including Ten Little Hot Dogs.  The book contains predictable, repetitive vocabulary – a safe endeavour for many struggling readers.  Thanks to his practice with Lily and Mary Jane, one grade one student increased his confidence in reading aloud, earning himself a personal copy of the book.  When Mary Jane subsequently asked him if he had read the book to his mother, the boy grinned and proudly told her that he had read it to his entire class.

These are the experiences that make Ottawa Therapy Dog volunteers return to their assignments over and over again.  Dogs such as Lily and Daisy are simply “props”, a foot in the door, a key to unlocking a treasure of enjoyment and learning.

And it isn’t just the students who benefit from their time with the dogs.  School teachers, staff and the principal always make a point of coming out to talk to Lily.  “That’s okay,” says Mary Jane, “I have my own friends.”

Author’s note:  Shortly after this article was written, Daisy passed away and Lily took a well-deserved retirement.  The article has been kept in its original form as a tribute to these hard-working gals.

 

Karen Luker has been a member of Ottawa Therapy Dogs since 2006.  Currently an associate member, she visited the Bruyère Continuing Care Palliative Care Unit weekly for 8 years with her miniature dachshund, Gogo.  She is also the author of “Un chien dans ma chambre? La médiation animale en soins palliatifs”, published in Ces animaux qui aiment autrement (2015), a book on the many benefits of the animal-human bond.

Echinococcus tapeworm emerging in Ontario – how to protect your dog and yourselves

By | Parasite, Pet Health

Since 2012, we have been receiving reports of dogs developing a serious disease caused by the tapeworm, Echinococcus multilocularis (E. mulit for short).  While tapeworms are not unusual in dogs and cats, most are more of a nuisance than a serious health concern.  E. multi is a new game in town.

microscope image of E. multi tapeworm

Microscope image of E. multi tapeworm

This tiny parasite (3 mm long as an adult) infects wild canids, particularly coyotes and foxes.  Microscopic tapeworm eggs are ingested by an intermediate host, typically small rodents, and dogs and cats become infected when they ingest these rodents.  In this situation, the dog or cat will develop the intestinal adult parasite in their gut and begin shedding tapeworm eggs also.

adult coyote standing in the snowUnlike common tapeworms, however, dogs and people can become accidental intermediate hosts for the disease by accidently ingesting the tapeworm eggs directly from contaminated from coyote or fox feces.  In this situation, the tapeworm can form cysts in the liver or lungs of the dog or person, a condition known as Alveolar Echinococcus, and this is what we have been seeing since 2012.  A dog may present with expanding and large cysts within its liver or lungs, gradually destroying the normal tissues.  In people, this condition can take 5 to 15 years, making diagnosis difficult.

A recent study of Ontario coyote populations demonstrated 23% of fecal samples were infected with the tapeworm, raising concerns for pet and human health.  Please read the article from Dr. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph for more information: https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2019/01/articles/animals/dogs/echinococcus-multilocularis-ontario-canada/ or at https://www.emultiontario.com/.

Prevention of Echinococcus can only be directed at the intestinal form of the disease by treating dogs regularly with Praziquantal, a safe and effective dewormer.  Dogs that may be at risk are those that may ingest rodents or wildlife poop.  Unfortunately, the Alveloar form of the disease that develops from eating coyote feces is more difficult to prevent.

boxes of Interceptor PlusWe now carry Interceptor Plus for prevention of tapeworms in dogs.  As you may be aware, monthly Interceptor pills are used for Heartworm, roundworm, hookworm and whipworm prevention during the summer and fall.  Interceptor Plus contains Praziquantal also and can be used to prevent Echinococcus infection.  Used for this purpose, it can be given monthly during anytime of the year that the dogs are considered at risk (may eat rodents or coyote/fox poop).

Please take the time to read the attached information on E. multi and speak to our staff if you have further questions or would like to use Interceptor Plus for your dog.

 

Dr. Nigel Gumley

Cedarview Animal Hospital

Now Offering Shockwave Therapy

By | Services

Cedarview Animal Hospital is excited to announce that we now offer shockwave therapy for our patients!

What is shockwave therapy?picture of a radial shockwave device

“Radial shockwave is a pressure wave system.  The applicator head contains a small metal bullet that gets rapidly forced against the applicator head, creating a pressure wave that transmits into the tissue that the applicator head is pressed against.  The end result is a stimulus that increases blood flow to the affected area which can help stimulate healing and pain relief, and causes the release of growth factors and the recruitment of stem cells.  Most animals feel good after treatment.  Occasionally, they are a little stiff immediately after application, but it is usually short-lived and resolves with movement.”

— Chattanooga Mobile RPW 

What are the indications for using shockwave therapy? 

Studies have shown radial shockwave to be effective in treating:

  • Subacute or chronic soft tissue injuries (muscle strains, ligament sprains, injuries to tendons, etc.)
  • Osteoarthritis and injuries to joints
  • Lumbosacral disc disease
  • Stress fractures
  • And more!

Does my pet need to be sedated to receive treatment with shockwave therapy?

No!  We can perform the treatment during a regular appointment.  The therapy does produce a unique sound and sensation, but we will help to acclimatize your pet to the therapy to reduce any fear or nervousness on their part.  Many of our patients barely notice when the treatment is being performed.

Interested in learning more? 

Give us a call at 613-825-5001 for more information on shockwave therapy or to schedule consultation with one of our veterinarians.  We can help to determine if shockwave therapy is appropriate for your pet.  Alternatively, if your pet has been referred to our hospital for shockwave therapy by your regular veterinarian, please contact one of our client service representatives for details.