All posts in Canine

Sleeping with Pets…Deadly Nightmare or Sweet Dreams?

Most pet owners don’t read or keep copies of the periodical, Emerging Infectious Diseases.  But, when a newspaper cited this journal in an article describing the dangers of sleeping with pets, people took notice.  When the same story was repeated hundreds of times, across all kinds of markets over 18 months, more and more individuals began to wonder of their pets should be on the floor instead of the bed.   Were these pet owners right to be worried?

It all started in 2010 when a veterinarian and professor at the University of California at Davis, Dr. Bruno Chomel, published an article stating that sleeping with your pets includes the possible risk of contracting zoonotic disease.  Zoonoses are illnesses that have the potential of spreading from animals to people.

Despite knowing that it would be an unpopular opinion, Dr. Chomel flatly stated that “pets don’t belong in your bed.”  News outlets across the country took the opportunity to share this information with their audiences, generating headlines like “Sleeping With Pets Can Endanger Your Health” or “Cuddling with Dying Pets Gives Owners Scary Infections”.

Make no mistake, the risks of contracting a disease or a parasite from your pet are very real.  Fungal diseases like ringworm, bacterial infections like the plague and even certain parasites are all capable of transmission from our dogs and cats directly to us.  The real questions, though, are just how common are these issues and what can pet owners do to prevent the diseases?

The good news is that it is not difficult to prevent or minimize the risks for zoonotic diseases.  Dr. Elizabeth Bradt, a veterinarian in Salem, MA says that “maintaining good hygiene practices and always washing your hands after interacting with your pet goes a long way to prevent these sorts of problems.”  In one of the cases outlined in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, an elderly man recovering from surgery allowed his dog in bed with him.  The dog licked the man’s incision site leading to a case of meningitis.

In other serious cases, three pet owners were hospitalized with rare respiratory illnesses after providing palliative care for their dying pets.  In each case, the owners developed an infection caused by a type of bacteria of the Pasturella species that are common in the mouths of our pets.   These owners shared utensils with their pets and allowed their animals to lick them for extended periods of time.  Thankfully, all three owners recovered with a short course of antibiotics.

All of these individuals put themselves at a higher risk for transmission of disease because of their actions.

Beyond routine hygiene, regular preventive care for your pets is another great safety precaution that any pet owner can take to avoid zoonotic diseases.  Pet owners should carefully consider their veterinarian’s recommendations in order to keep the whole family healthy.

As an example, fleas are the natural carriers of the bacteria causing the plague.  Keeping pets on safe and effective flea medications can help prevent this deadly illness from occurring as well as prevent other problems like tularemia (rabbit fever), cat-scratch disease or even tapeworms.  In another case listed in the Dr. Chomel’s article, he cites a young boy contracting plague because he slept with his flea infested cat.  If this cat had been on a flea preventive, the likelihood of the boy contracting this illness would have been greatly reduced.

Dr. Bradt also says that “the bottom line is that you can catch a disease from your pet whether you sleep with them or not.  There is nothing inherently dangerous about sleeping with a pet.”  Don’t let unfounded fears keep you from the unconditional love of a pet.  Ask your veterinarian how you can keep your pet healthy and a part of your family.

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Pet Food Recall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 05, 2012

Diamond Pet Foods is voluntarily recalling Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice. This is being done as a precautionary measure, as the product has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. No illnesses have been reported and no other Diamond manufactured products are affected.

Individuals handling dry pet food can become infected with salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with surfaces exposed to this product. Healthy people infected with salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, salmonella can result in more serious ailments including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with salmonella infections may have decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, pets may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

The product, Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice, was distributed to customers located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, who may have further distributed the product to other states, through pet food channels.

Product Name Bag Size Production Code & “Best Before” Code

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     6lb                   DLR0101D3XALW Best Before 04 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     20lb                 DLR0101C31XAG Best Before 03 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     40lb                 DLR0101C31XMF Best Before 03 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     40lb                 DLR0101C31XAG Best Before 03 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     40lb                 DLR0101D32XMS Best Before 04 Jan 2013

Consumers who have purchased the Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice with the specific production and “Best Before” codes should discontinue feeding the product and discard it.

At Diamond Pet Foods, the safety of our products is our top priority. We apologize for any inconvenience this recall may have caused. For further information or to obtain a product refund please call us at 800-442-0402 or visit www.diamondpet.com.

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Spinal Cord Injuries – Veterinary Research Helping People and Pets

Experts estimate that more than 12,000 spinal cord injuries (SCI) occur every year in people and that more than a quarter of a million Americans are now living with some form of SCI.  These injuries are not limited to humans, but happen frequently in our pets as well.

In people, damage to the spine often occurs due to a traumatic event, such as a car accidents, severe falls or even sports activities.  Such injuries happen most often to younger men.

In dogs, not only are there a variety of accidents that cause SCI, but many breeds of dogs, can develop a bulging or full prolapse of the discs that are located between the vertebrae.  This bulge puts damaging pressure on the spinal cord, causing pain and even paralysis.  Any sort of pressure, trauma or tearing of the spinal cord is truly an emergency situation.

In both human and veterinary medicine new treatments are focused in an attempt to block certain biochemical pathways after injury to save mobility. But, until now, many of these treatments have been unsuccessful.  Consequently, the human may spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair while many pets are euthanized due to costs or the owner’s inability to care for a pet who is unable to walk.

Two dachshunds by poolDr. Jonathon Levine, a veterinarian and resident in neurology at Texas A & M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says “about 3% of all hospitalized cases in veterinary medicine were due to disc related spinal cord injuries.”  In certain breeds, especially dachshunds and other long bodied, short legged dogs, the incidence of SCI due to disc problems approaches 25%.

In some situations, especially traumatic events, like a dog being struck by a car, the onset is sudden and easily recognizable.  But in other cases, the signs are much more subtle.  Dogs with slow developing disc problems often show weakness in the limbs, abnormal gait, incoordination and pain across the back.  Without treatment, these pets may eventually lose the ability to walk.

Close up of MRI image, dog spineNew advances in diagnostic technology, including increased availability of even more powerful MRI units for pets, have enabled veterinarians to more accurately pinpoint the cause of spinal injuries.  But, the fact still remains that far too many dogs and people suffering lasting serious consequences, from spinal cord injuries.

In conjunction with the University of California Medical School, Dr. Levine and the team at Texas A & M are exploring a new drug that may protect the nervous system after spinal cord injury.  Certain enzymes in the nervous system can actually destroy vital components of the blood-spinal cord barrier and of myelin, the protective covering over nerves.  This current research looks at a new compound that may block these destructive enzymes.  “We are hoping that this new drug will protect the nervous system shortly after injury, improve the outcome and help more dogs walk in these cases.” says Levine.

The importance of this study cannot be overstated.  This is the first veterinary clinical trial that has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.  In addition, because of the potential benefits to both dogs and people, the Department of Defense has also provided grant money to continue the research.  Many of the quarter of a million people living with spinal cord injuries are soldiers wounded while in war zones.

Pet owners, especially those with specific breeds prone to back problems need to be aware of the subtitle signs of potential problems.  A veterinarian should see any dog that cries out during play, has difficulty navigating stairs or that has any sort of uncoordinated gait.  Pets that are overweight are more prone to spinal issues, so keeping your pet trim is one way to minimize the risks.  In some cases, owners may receive a referral to a veterinary neurologist or surgeon for advanced care.

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Does your pet suffer from secondhand smoke?

The history of smoking tobacco may reach back many hundreds of years, but research in the 20th century has made it clear how harmful this habit is.  Furthermore, secondhand smoke has been implicated in the illnesses and even deaths of non-smokers.  What’s even more disturbing is that smokers may have unknowingly contributed to severe disease in dogs and cats.

Most people understand that secondhand smoke from cigarettes contains an incredible number of hazardous substances and many of them are carcinogenic.  These chemicals are found in high concentrations in carpets and on furniture around the home.  Pets sharing this environment will get these toxins on their fur and then ingest them during normal grooming.

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a board certified specialist in veterinary internal medicine and certified veterinary journalist, has written that increased numbers of smokers and smoking in households corresponds with higher levels of the by-products of nicotine metabolism in pets sharing that home.  She further describes how carbon deposits are often seen in the lungs of these animals.

Research is now showing that our pets’ health is affected in ways similar to what is seen in humans.

X-ray of dog with lung cancerIn the early 1990s, researchers found correlations between nasal cancers in dogs and the presence of smokers in the home.  There is also a concern that environmental tobacco smoke may increase the incidence of lung cancer in our canine friends as well.

Cats may actually be at higher risk for serious disease when they live in a smoking environment.  As mentioned above, many cigarette smoke toxins settle to low levels in the home and cats will pick up these substances on their fur.  Because of their fastidious grooming habits, cats end up ingesting a higher level of chemicals and this leads to a greater chance of several types of cancer.

Lymphoma is a cancer of white blood cells and is one of the most common cancers seen in our pet cats.  When smokers are present in the cat’s household, the risk for this killer is increased by two or three times over cats living in non-smoking homes.  Sadly, when our feline friends are diagnosed with lymphoma, the prognosis is very poor and many won’t survive another six months.

Another serious cancer with links to secondhand smoke is a cancer of the mouth known as squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC.   Studies have linked a higher risk for SCC in cats living in smoking homes.  Again, the prognosis is very grave and most pets won’t survive another year.

An unpublished study has also found that the levels of nicotine found in the hair of dogs exposed to second hand smoke is similar to levels found in children living with parents who smoke.

With more than 46 million smokers in North America and about 60% of the population owning dogs or cats, the risk for the animals is substantial.  Pets are often good at hiding signs of illness, so many smoking owners fail to realize the damage that their habit is causing to the four legged family member.

Of course, the best course of action is to give up the tobacco habit entirely.  It’s not only best for the health of the smoker, it will also greatly reduce risks for pets.  Understanding that it’s not easy to quit this addictive habit, people who smoke and have pets should attempt to minimize their pets’ exposure by smoking outdoors.

Lit cigaretteAnother important thing to remember is that smoking in the car with pets can create a toxic environment, even with the windows open.  Some states and Canadian provinces even ban smoking in cars when children are passengers because of the chance for serious exposures.  If you must smoke when you drive, leave your pets and kids at home!

Pets who are developing illnesses from secondhand smoke may exhibit symptoms ranging from lethargy to coughing to the appearance of masses in the mouth.  It’s important to have your pet seen by a veterinarian if any of these signs are noted.

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Who Cleans Your Teeth?

Non-anesthetic dental scalings (NADS) or “anesthesia free pet dentals” involve removing tartar from an animal’s teeth by simply holding the pet and not using any sort of sedation or anesthetic.  Many of the websites promoting this service tout their “proprietary restraint techniques” as the reason they are able to work in your pet’s mouth while he or she is awake.

Videos advocating this practice show well-behaved pets sitting quietly on the floor or on laps while individuals scrape their teeth with sharp dental instruments.  Is this how it happens or is this simply marketing hype?

Businesses that encourage these types of procedures claim that their methods are safer, healthier for the pet and less costly for the owner.  However, understanding the risks of these supposedly safer options might offer an opposing view.

First, these methods should not be called “pet dentistry”.  Dentistry involves much more than a simple scaling of the teeth.  In fact, the term dentistry is defined as the branch of medical science concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the teeth and gums.  The American Veterinary Dental College prefers the term “non-anesthetic dental scalings”, or NADS, as this more accurately describes these procedures.  Individuals doing these scalings are rarely trained in dentistry.

Next, the marketing of these services focuses on the fact that the providers don’t use any sort of anesthetic or sedation.  Several sites quote a single scientific article and claim that one out of every 253 pets dies from an anesthetic procedure.  For people who have lost pets under anesthesia, these services seem heavenly and for others, it simply scares them.

What they DON’T tell you is that particular study was done at a veterinary teaching hospital where the vast majority of their surgical patients were severely ill or injured.  Other studies show a much lower risk of anesthetic related deaths.

To be fair, anesthesia, like any medical practice, has risks.  But, your veterinarian has the appropriate knowledge, skills, equipment and trained staff to help minimize adverse reactions.

Proponents of NADS also claim that it is healthier for the pet since the pet doesn’t need to undergo multiple anesthetic events.  Again, this fiction is not borne out in reality as the vast majority of pets only need professional teeth cleanings once or twice annually.

Perhaps the biggest myth perpetrated by these unlicensed people is that a dental scaling will promote long term oral health for your pet.  Dr. Brett Beckman, a veterinary dentist, has seen the effects of NADS on pets over time.  He says, “these ‘cleanings’ actually do much more harm than good.  The pitting of the enamel by the scalers allows for more hiding places for the plaque causing bacteria.”  The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) agrees.  In a statement on their website, AAHA says that these scalings “make the teeth whiter, but not healthier!”

Even the aspect of saving money that is highly publicized may not be accurate.  A search of pricing showed a range between $125 and a $165 for these procedures.  While this might be less expensive than the veterinarian, these companies and individuals are recommending that their clients return, on average, once every three months.  That’s $500 to more than $650 per year!  Dr. Beckman elaborates that “the damage done by the scaling encourages plaque growth and then, of course, return visits.  This might be good for business, but it’s certainly not good for the pet.”

Remember, many of the people who encourage and provide these sorts of services are unlicensed, often unsupervised and unregulated.  This means that you have no official recourse if your pet is injured during the scaling.  Cuts of the gums, neck strains and even long term anxiety have been reported.

If you are concerned about your pet’s dental health, the best resource for you is your veterinarian.  He or she will have the right equipment to fully assess the whole mouth, not just the outer surfaces of the teeth.  With dental x-rays and effective dental probing done on an anesthetized pet, your veterinarian can get the entire picture of the health of your pet’s mouth.

Ask questions if you are concerned about anesthetic safety.  Other options for sedation may exist, based on the overall health of your animal.  You should also proactively brush your pet’s teeth or ask about home care products that help minimize plaque accumulation.

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