Pet Health

They are What They Eat

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

Whole chicken, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, turkey meal, brewer’s rice— just a few of the ingredients you may find on your dog’s bag of kibble.

When it comes to feeding our dogs, we want to make the best choices, but read any dog food label and let the confusion begin. Add creative marketing and appealing product names to the mix, and the choices become immediately overwhelming.

So how do you decide which food is right for your dog? Dr. Jennifer Miller, a veterinarian at 15th Street Veterinary Group in Tulsa, says that pet food ingredient labels have become a hot topic of discussion with her clients and with consumers in general. According to Miller, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding pet food ingredients, and that makes it increasingly difficult for consumers to make an educated choice.

One way to start to make sense of it all is to follow two basic rules that I came up with in the course of researching this topic:

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

2. If it sounds terrible to you, it might just be really good for your dog.

So first things first, a name is pretty much just a name, but the pet food bag is actually a legal document. “If you are looking at a particular pet food website or watching a commercial, and they make a big claim about their food that doesn’t show up on their food bag, then it may not be true and could just be part of an advertising gimmick,” Miller says. “Make sure you read the bag.”

There’s a lot of fancy terminology being thrown around in conjunction with pet foods these days, so it’s important to understand which terms actually have legitimate meaning and which words just sound good from a marketing perspective. “What we have to keep in mind is that some of the terms used in promoting dog foods have no legal definition and can be used by anyone that wants to make a claim,” Miller says.

The word “organic” is a term that has been assigned a legal definition and is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AA FCO )—a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies that regulates the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.

According to USDA regulations, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones during their lives.

Organic food is produced without using harmful, conventional pesticides; fertilizers containing synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. If you are looking for an organic food, Miller says you should look for the USDA organic seal on the bag. That seal means 95 percent or more of the diet content is organic.

“Natural” is another term with a legal definition. Miller explains that a food claiming to be natural must have ingredients that are found in nature, not artificial or manufactured, and without ingredients that are chemically altered.

On the other hand, she points out that the term “holistic”—a word widely used in pet food marketing—has no legal definition relative to pet foods. “Anyone can claim their food is holistic with no standard for the ingredients chosen,” Miller says.

Pet food manufacturers are also required to state maximum and minimum concentrations of nutrients that must be present for small and large animals in various life stages. Every bag or can of dog food also includes a statement provided by AA FCO detailing how a food’s nutrient content has been verified. Miller explains that pet food can either be formulated—meaning the nutrient content is verified in a laboratory—or it can be tested through a feeding trial.

In the feeding trial, the food has not only been laboratory tested, but has also been fed to animals in the appropriate life stage for a required length of time to show that the animals thrive on the food

“A pet food company that has taken the time and money to have feeding trials performed on their food has essentially proved that their diet works as they claim it does,” Miller says. “The feeding trial method is considered to be the gold standard.”

All product claims, testing, and marketing hype aside, it would seem you could just read the list of ingredients to decide which food is right for your dog. Simple—that is, until you walk to the dog food aisle of your local pet store and stare at row after row of brands and varieties with a dizzying plethora of formulas and ingredient options.

For example, here are the first several ingredients found in three popular dog foods:

1. Whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), meat and bone meal, soybean meal, egg and chicken flavor…

2. Chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), ground flaxseed…

3. Deboned lamb, oatmeal, whole ground barley, turkey meal, whole ground brown rice, peas…

So which food would you pick? If you’re anything like me, you’re still confused. Back to the classroom we go, and here’s where we touch on my “if it sounds terrible, it may actually be good for your dog” rule

“Probably the biggest myth is that meat by-products are horrible for your pet, and if it doesn’t have a whole meat product as the first ingredient, it isn’t good,” Miller says. “The big issue with this statement is in the legal definition of the ingredients.”

For example, Miller explains that when a pet food label lists chicken by-products as the protein, that means a chicken carcass that has had all of the meat used for human consumption removed (breast meat, wings, thighs, legs), but still contains the cleaned organ meat and bones with leftover meat on them.

While this definition of the term “by-products” sounds anything but appealing to the majority of the human race, it likely has our canine counterparts drooling and actually affords them an excellent source of protein.

Here’s where it gets even trickier, according to Miller—when the label lists whole chicken as an ingredient. It is actually the same thing as the chicken by-product meat, but without all of the cleaned organ meat. This means there is a higher bone (ash/mineral) content to protein ratio.

“Consumers think that they are getting an entire chicken because that is what it sounds like, but legally that is not what it means on an ingredient label,” Miller says.

That brings us to meal. Many dog food labels will list a meat meal as the protein source. Certainly a whole meat ingredient sounds more appealing than something that is a meal. Take chicken again, for example. You might be more likely to buy a food that lists whole chicken as the first ingredient over a food that lists chicken meal.

Guess again. Miller’s colleague, Dr. Erin Reed, explains that in commercial dog food, a high grade meat meal can actually be a better source of digestible protein than the whole meat from which it was made.

Meat meal is the dried end-product of a cooking process known as rendering in which the water is cooked away. The residue is then baked into a highly concentrated protein powder better known as meat meal.

Whole chicken contains about 70 percent water and 18 percent protein, while chicken meal contains just 10 percent water and 65 percent protein. That’s more than three times the protein per pound than whole chicken contains. So maybe now chicken meal doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Armed with a little knowledge, you can make a responsible decision when choosing the bestdiet for your pet. If you want to take it one step further, Miller suggests that you contact the pet food company directly.

There should always be a contact phone number for the pet food company on the packaging, and Miller suggests you ask if they have a veterinary nutritionist on staff. You can find out how and where the food is manufactured, and ask any other questions you may have to try to make a well-educated choice for your pet.

If none of the packaged meals sound appealing to you, you may consider preparing home-cooked meals for you dog, but Miller cautions that the do-it-yourself route isn’t easy either. “If there are consumers out there who truly want to make a home-cooked diet for their pets, there is nothing wrong with it,” she says

“However, it is extremely important to follow a recipe that offers a balanced diet. Feeding your dog chicken and rice with some veggies isn’t going to cut it in the long run because the mineral content will not be balanced.” She suggests visiting petdiets.com or balanceit.com to find a recipe to meet your dog’s dietary needs.

What it boils down to is there are a lot of great commercial pet foods readily available. These foods are designed to meet your pet’s specific nutritional needs at various life stages. On the other hand, there’s a lot of low quality dog food out there too.

As tedious as it may seem, it’s your job to read the labels, sort through the facts, know your dog and any specific needs he may have, and then make the most educated choice possible.

It’s always a great idea to discuss dietary concerns with your veterinarian. Many veterinarians, like Miller, are well-versed in pet food lingo and can help guide you through the pet food aisles. Just remember that appealing names and pretty photos on dog food packaging are designed to catch your eye but may not represent the true quality of the food inside. Do your homework… your dog is counting on you!

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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You’ve just adopted an adorable new puppy, but you’re concerned because it’s the same breed of dog you’ve had in the past and when your last dog turned two years of age, he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, or malformed hip sockets. You spent years caring for a dog that had a painful condition in his rear legs.

Then, you talk to a friend who just had her young puppy in to see Dr Dennis Henson at Hammond Animal Hospital. Dr Henson performed a special radiographic technique called the PennHIP method. This procedure measures the laxity of the ligaments that hold the femoral head in the hip socket. Your friend’s puppy did have loose ligaments and her puppy is now scheduled to have a procedure called a juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS) surgery. This surgery can actually prevent hip dysplasia in dogs.

There is an area of cartilage called the pubic symphysis that serves as a seam connecting the right side of the pelvis to the left side. As a dog matures, this cartilage converts to bone and the two halves of the pelvis fuse permanently. Through JPS, the pubic symphysis is surgically fused at an early age resulting in rotation of the developing hip sockets into a more normal alignment.

The PennHip radiography must be performed between 16 and 18 weeks so this preventative procedure can be performed before the age of 20 weeks in puppies showing a certain degree of laxity in their hip sockets. For more information, contact Hammond Animal Hospital to see how one x-ray can lead to greater peace-of-mind for you and quality of life for your new pet.

Dental Dangers

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Kiley Roberson

Is your pet’s smile making him sick? The truth is that more than 85% of pets over age 3 suffer from some sort of dental disease. Tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth means bacteria, and bacteria leads to infections. Many pets develop heart disease or kidney disease as a result of harboring harmful bacteria in their mouths over time.

Veterinarians, like Dr. Heather Owen at Animal Acupuncture, are constantly reminding clients to provide annual dental exams and cleanings for their pets followed by care at home. “Smaller pets may need to have their teeth cleaned every six months,” Owen explains. “Larger pets need a cleaning every year. I tell people to flip their lip; if there is tartar, they need to be cleaned.”

Still, pet owners are reluctant to follow these recommendations. Some don’t like the idea of using anesthesia to put their pets to sleep during dental procedures because they think it’s dangerous. That’s why many groomers have started offering Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry (AFPD).

Marketing brochures show calm dogs sitting on the laps of “pet dental hygienists” who gently scrape tartar off the pets’ teeth. For anyone who has a senior pet or anyone who has lost a pet under anesthesia, this idea might seem to be right on target. But, Owen says, don’t be fooled.

“Don’t do it,” Owen warns. “You can pay a groomer to brush your pet’s teeth and check for bacteria if you want, but they are not educated in veterinary dentistry nor are they trained. This is a money making trend in the industry, and that is it.”

Veterinarians use ultrasonic scalers and sharp dental instruments for cleanings. This is one reason a general anesthetic is needed. Beyond keeping the patient from moving, heavy sedation or general anesthesia allows a more thorough procedure of the entire mouth and hard to see areas. Sedation also helps keep the pets from inhaling the bacteria as it is scraped from their teeth, which could make them very sick.

Dr. Owen says that Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry is not only dangerous, it’s a scam on pet owners. “The biggest danger is causing your pet harm,” Owen says. “Without sedations, we cannot take oral X-rays which are imperative in helping to assess the health of your pet’s teeth.

“We cannot protect their airway, allowing them to inhale massive amounts of bacteria. We could hurt them with the scaler if they unexpectedly move on us, and we cannot extract painful or infected teeth. In essence, it is a waste of your time and money.”

In a veterinary office, dental cleanings are followed by a polishing step that helps remove the microscopic divots from the tooth enamel and creates a smooth healthy surface. Many veterinarians also apply a barrier sealant that helps repel plaque-causing bacteria and has been shown to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. Neither of these can be done sedation free.

In fact, without anesthesia, only the visible portions of the teeth can be cleaned. Areas under the gum line and the insides of the teeth will still have tartar and bacteria. In time, the teeth will deteriorate and become painful.

Under a safe anesthetic, veterinarians are able to probe all areas of the mouth and use tools to remove plaque and bacteria from under the gum line. This actually stops the disease process. Veterinarians also use X-rays to help find potential problem areas, and you won’t find X-ray equipment at an anesthesia-free dental facility.

If you are concerned about the cost of dentals, use the February dental discount month to help your money go further. Brush your pet’s teeth daily at home. Listen to your veterinarian’s recommendations. They are trained in this area!

The anesthesia used is safe, and the risks are minimal—more so if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often (less time under). Be certain to have your veterinarian listen to his or her heart and perform blood work prior to sedating/anesthetizing your pet. Ask your vet to take dental X-rays to examine along with you!

If you know your pet needs a proper dental cleaning, but the thought of general anesthesia frightens you, talk with your veterinarian. “The anesthesia used is very safe, and the risks are minimal,” Owen says. “It’s even better if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often, because they are actually under for a shorter amount of time.”

While no anesthetic protocol is 100 percent safe, anesthetic complications are extremely rare. Ask your veterinarian to show you the monitoring equipment and explain how a well-trained staff makes anesthesia as safe as possible.

You can also reduce the need for dental cleanings by using dental home care products designed to remove plaque buildup in between the veterinary visits. The gold standard is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and special toothpaste designed for pets. You should never use human toothpaste. If you’re worried your pet might have teeth troubles, here are some signs to look for:

• Bad breath

• Excessive drooling

• Inflamed gums

• Tumors in the gums

• Cysts under the tongue

• Loose teeth

These are signs that your pet may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian.
Taking good care of your pet’s pearly whites is important to his or her overall health. While anesthesia-free dentistry might sound like a good idea, the truth is the benefits are strictly cosmetic, and risks are dangerous. Keep your pet safe with regular dental cleanings at the vet’s office; that sparkling smile will thank you.

 

For Pet’s Sake, Toss the Cigarettes!

posted September 16th, 2012 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

We have known of the dangers of cigarette smoking for years, including the detrimental effects it has on non-smokers through secondhand smoke. An estimated 26,000 to 70,000 non-smokers die annually from secondhand smoke.

It only makes sense then that secondhand smoke would also affect pets that live with smokers, and research proves it to be a significant health risk. Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, director of Veterinary Continuing Education and Extension at Oklahoma State University, wrote a paper on the topic and says, more specifically, secondhand smoke is associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs, as well as lung cancer in birds.

A Tufts College of Veterinary Medicine study showed cats particularly to be at an increased risk due to their grooming habits. Oral mouth cancer— squamous cell carcinoma—was higher for cats that live with smokers. In fact, cats who lived with a smoker for five years or longer had an even higher incidence of this oral cancer. A major contributing factor to this is a cat’s grooming habits, MacAllister writes.

“Cats constantly lick themselves while grooming,” she says, “therefore, they lick up the cancer-causing chemicals or carcinogens that accumulate on their fur from their environment. This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membrane of the oral cavity to the cancer-causing carcinogens.”

Another type of cancer found in cats living with smokers is malignant lymphoma. They were found to be twice as likely to have this cancer compared to cats living with non-smokers, and it kills three out of four cats within 12 months of developing it, according to MacAllister’s paper.

Of course, cats aren’t the only pets susceptible. Canines have an increased incidence of cancer in the nose and sinus area with a slight association to lung cancer. MacAllister cites a Colorado State University study which found a higher incidence of nasal tumors in dogs living in homes with secondhand smoke compared to those that live in non-smoking homes. Interestingly, the nasal tumor rate was even higher among long-nosed breeds, and shorteror medium-nosed breeds had a higher incidence of lung cancer.

MacAllister explains “the higher incidence of nasal tumors for long-nosed breeds probably occurs because these types of breeds have a greater surface area in their noses to be exposed to the carcinogens and for the carcinogens to accumulate. Since the carcinogens tend to build up on the mucous membranes of the long-nosed dogs not as much will reach the lungs. Unfortunately, the dogs affected with nasal cancer typically will not live longer than a year.”

She goes on to explain the same for shorter-nosed breeds. As the Colorado State study reported, “there was a slightly higher incidence of lung cancer among the short/medium nosed dogs. This increase probably occurred because their shorter nasal passages were not as effective at accumulating the inhaled secondhand smoke carcinogens; therefore, more of the carcinogens were reaching the lungs.”

A third type of pet affected by secondhand smoke is birds. Birds have hypersensitive respiratory systems to air pollutants, which can bring serious consequences, including pneumonia, lung cancer, and even eye, skin, heart and fertility problems.

The Perfect Combination of Compassion and Expertise

posted September 16th, 2012 by
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A cute little Chihuahua arrived at an area animal shelter with what appeared to be a very infected eye. Volunteers put out a plea for a veterinarian to examine the little dog, known as Baby, and the doctors at Hammond Animal Hospital were happy to take a look. Examination revealed that Baby actually suffered from microphthalmia, a congenital disorder resulting in a small eye that is recessed in the socket and often blind. To add to the tiny dog’s troubles, the veterinarians also noticed that Baby had an unusual gait and further diagnosed bilaterally luxated patellas– a condition in which the patellas, or kneecaps, in the dog’s hind legs dislocate or move out of their normal location. Baby needed surgery to not only remove her blind eye, but also to repair both knees.

None of this is good news for a homeless dog that is living in limbo in a small shelter with limited resources. But there was good news for Baby. Thanks to the expertise and generosity of Dr. Dennis Henson and Dr. Lauren Johnson, along with an outpouring of support from concerned animal lovers, the tough little Chihuahua received the surgeries she needed followed by excellent support during her recovery and rehabilitation. Baby quickly became a hospital favorite. In fact, so much so that she and Dr. Johnson, who oversaw her recovery, quickly became inseparable. So instead of returning to the shelter to await adoption, Baby was adopted by one of her favorite docs and can be found making the rounds with Dr. Johnson on a regular basis.

Whether it’s a beloved family pet or a homeless animal in need, the veterinarians and staff at Hammond Animal Hospital deliver the perfect combination of compassionate care and expertise to each case. The result? Many happy tales…and tails!

Ruth Steinberger to address World Health Organization

posted September 3rd, 2012 by
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WHO Dog Population Mgmt2

Ruth Steinberger, Spay FIRST! founder and contributing writer for TulsaPets Magazine, will speak this month at the OIE’s First International Conference on Dog Population Management in York, England.  (The OIE is the animal branch of the World Health Organization.)

Ruth will speak about her work on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where she helped start a spay/neuter program there in 2002 to help decrease the number of stray dogs on the reservation.  Life has much improved for the dogs there, thanks to the good work by Ruth and the others!   Ruth will speak on Friday 7 September about her work that has become a road map for creating measureable outcomes from a high volume spay/neuter program.

The presentation will be available at a link on TulsaPetsMagazine.com next week.