All posts in Uncategorized

Jerky Treats for Pets Continue to Cause Problems

Using treats as a means of reward or distraction for our pets is not unusual.  “Roxie”, a Yorkie, was owned by a wonderful lady who had long suffered from severe hip arthritis and therefore could not get to the store very often.  She relied on friends to buy her groceries and even food and treats for her beloved canine companion.

Happily her veterinarian agreed to make house calls for her special situation. During a call for an exam and vaccinations, she returned from her kitchen with a bag of treats for reward.  Unfortunately, she held in her hand a newly opened bag of dog treats of a brand that has been associated with numerous complaints to the FDA.  Thankfully, the veterinarian stopped her from giving the treats and explained this serious situation.

Jerky treats have been an extremely popular treat for pets because of their high protein, low fat composition and dogs love them.  Also, the fact that the ingredient list is generally very short (chicken and some flavorings) allows people to feel good about giving their dogs something “natural”.

But somewhere along the way, something has gone terribly wrong.  Since 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued numerous warning about pet illnesses and even deaths associated with these jerky treats.  The most recent figures show more than 2,200 reports on file and these include more than 360 deaths thought to be linked to these treats!  In many cases, kidney failure was the primary reason for the sickness, death or euthanasia of the pet.  What is even more disturbing to most people is that almost without exception, the country of origin of the product is China.  The memory of the nationwide pet food recall caused by tainted ingredients from China is still fresh.   Thousands of pets became very sick and even died in 2007 from this serious problem.

Unfortunately, despite rigorous and continued testing and FDA inspections of manufacturers in China, the source of the problem is still unidentified.  Without knowing what the exact problem is, the FDA is powerless to compel any sort of recall.  Manufacturers of the treats are all reluctant to pull their products from shelves and this has led to a strong backlash from consumers and has social media buzzing.  Even now, several law suits are in progress.

According to Laura Alvey from the FDA, there are productive discussions happening with pet food firms at this time in the hopes of finding a cause for this on-going issue.  The latest testing of the treats is focused on problems stemming from irradiation of the ingredients.

So, what can you do to make sure your pet is not adversely affected?

First, and very simply, avoid buying any sort of jerky treat that is made in China.  Although that sounds easy, it is often difficult to determine exactly where a product is made.  Even products that are “Made in the USA” may source ingredients from China.  If you are not sure, call the manufacturer and ask them if the treats are wholly made in the US from US sourced ingredients.  If you don’t get a definitive answer, don’t buy the product!

Next, consider alternatives for the jerky treats.  Many dogs will happily accept baby carrots or green beans as a snack or reward.  Reputable companies, like Hill’s, Iams and others, also offer a variety of safe treats we can trust.  Other pet owners have found homemade recipes like the ones at DogTreatKitchen.com for making their own special home cooked goodies.

Remember, treats should only make up a small portion of the calories your pet receives each day.  While this sounds like common sense, in many of the complaints on file with the FDA, owners were feeding too many jerky snacks far too often.

Finally, it’s important to see a veterinarian if you’re pet shows any odd symptoms or has persistent vomiting and diarrhea.  In a review of the complaints to the FDA, a fair percentage of pet owners never saw a veterinarian or had any blood analysis done.  Without that information, it is almost impossible to say that the treats are the definitive cause of the illness or death.  Your pets rely on you to make sure their food and treats are safe and they need your help.

If you believe your pets have been affected by these products, please tell your veterinarian and file a report with the FDA online.

More

Wildfires Rage in Colorado and New Mexico – Pet Safety

The massive plumes of smoke from wildfires can often reach hundreds of miles downwind, creating hazy skies and dangerous conditions for people or pets with respiratory issues.  For those living in the path of these fast-moving blazes though, danger can often come without warning.

According to National Geographic, more than 100,000 wildfires burn about 4-5 million acres of land each year.   These fires are often in remote wilderness areas, but still claim almost 1,000 human lives, kill untold numbers of animals and cause a half a billion dollars in property damage.  Reaching speeds of 14 miles per hour, the flames often out race the best containment efforts.

Faced with this sort of natural disaster, how are you going to keep your pets, your livestock and yourself safe?

As with any natural disaster, the best defense is having a plan and supplies at the ready.  Evacuation kits should include not only materials for the human members of your family, but also food, water, medications and vaccination records for your pets.  Livestock owners should have a means of transporting their animals and an emergency destination in the case of a mandatory evacuation.

But, fickle wind patterns and aggressive fires can often catch even the best-prepared person unaware.  Knowing how to handle a burned pet or an animal suffering from smoke inhalation could spell the difference between a life saved and one lost to the wildfire.  So, how can you help your pet in an emergency and then, of course, find good veterinary care as soon as you can.

Treating a pet with burns is not unlike treating a person with burns.  The goals are to stop the burning process, prevent infection or further injury and keep the pet from going into shock.  Even though you may know your animal very well, injured pets often react in unexpected ways.  Before attempting any sort of first aid, consider using a muzzle to prevent unintended bites.

Never use butter, creams or any other folk remedy on a burn.  For first and second degree burns, the best immediate remedy is to submerge the area in cool, not cold, water, pat the area dry and place a layer of sterile gauze lightly over the affected area.  For third degree burns (complete skin destruction, blackened skin, fur falling out), an important step is to prevent shock.

Pets with pale or white gums, a rapid heartbeat or even rapid breathing could be at risk for shock.  If your pet’s heart rate is in excess of 180 beats per minute, keep the head level with the rest of the body, loosely cover the burns and seek veterinary care immediately.

Outdoor pets in wildfire areas may be at risk for smoke inhalation as well.  Pets with rapid breathing, increased respiratory effort, reddened eyes or a hoarse cough could suffer from some degree of smoke inhalation.  If oxygen is available, delivering it via a mask could help speed recovery.  Thanks to veterinarians, many fire crews and first responders now carry pet specific oxygen masks as part of their equipment and may assist you until you can find veterinary help.

The destruction of wildfires could also mean the potential for injury to your pets from debris.  If you find a cut on your pet that is bleeding, try using a thick gauze pad and apply pressure to the wound for a minimum of three minutes.  For most mild to moderate cuts, this action will allow a stable clot to form and give you time to seek veterinary care.  In the case of severe bleeding on the legs, a tourniquet can be placed between the wound and the body along with a pressure bandage.  Since this sort of hemorrhage is life-threatening, you must find a veterinarian immediately.

Even if you think your pet is ok after your treatment, it’s important to have a veterinarian evaluate the burn or injury.  Since our pets can’t talk to us, we won’t know the true extent of his or her discomfort.

More

Care for Pets When Owners Are Gone

Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University

Mac is a typical rambunctious pup that stole the heart of Eleanor Schmidt.  His long flowing black and tan hair across his lean Dachshund body reminded her of a dog she had more than 70 years prior.  Eleanor knew she was taking a risk that Mac might outlive her, but his big brown eyes and puppy antics quickly dismissed her concerns about age.  Thankfully, Eleanor was proactive and made arrangements for the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center to care for Mac in the event she couldn’t.

Pets provide a great deal of affection and companionship for many families, including a large number of senior citizens.  With families and relatives spread out across the country, the loyal dog or affectionate cat often becomes a best friend for many older people.  But, some individuals avoid keeping any sort of pet over real concerns of what to do if they can no longer care for the animal.

The Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center (“The Center”) was started to help give people peace of mind that someone will be providing for the physical, emotional and medical needs of their pet.  In many cases, when an owner can no longer provide care for a dog or cat, the animal is placed with a family member who may not have the means (or the desire) to continue providing the needed attention.   In other situations, the pets end up in rescues or shelters, where, despite the best of intentions, adjusting to the new circumstances might be difficult.

As a resident of the Stevenson Center, Mac lives with about 35 other dogs and cats in spacious surroundings, including 5 outdoor yards where he can play.  All of the animals are allowed to interact with each other, but also have their own private areas during quiet times.   The feline residents are allowed to interact at their discretion, but dogs are kept out of the “cat only” rooms!

The Center began at the suggestion of Dr. E.W. Ellet, a former head of the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M University.  Funded by generous donations from the Luse Foundation and Ms. Madlin Stevenson, the Center was able to open its door in 1993 and has the capability of housing about 60 dogs, cats and even birds.   In a separate area, a barn completed in 2003 houses “Rusty”, a llama originally owned by Ms. Stevenson.  Rusty arrived at the center with 4 cats, 7 dogs and a pony in 2000, the year Ms. Stevenson passed away.

None of the residents of the Stevenson Center will ever lack for medical care or personal attention.  All of the pets are seen by veterinarians at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and students of the college actually live at the center to provide 24 hour company to these wonderful animals.  From grooming to play time to special diets, each pet receives the perfect amount of attention to insure his or her comfort.

Pet owners who wish to enroll their pets at the center must first pay an enrollment fee of $1,000 to secure a place in the home.  Then, depending on the age of the owner, a minimum endowment ranging from $50,000 to more than $200,000 for some large animals must be provided through a trust, will or even paid in full up front.

Some people might question the seemingly high costs, but considering that the pets will have life-long care and the bequests allow the Center to function as a privately funded operation, to many loving pet owners, the peace of mind is priceless.  Already, almost 400 animals are waiting for future enrollment at this marvelous facility.

Thinking about what will happen to your pets if you are no longer able to provide for their needs is not an easy thing to do.   But, by being proactive, you can insure that your wishes for your pet’s care will be followed.  Although the Stevenson Center is unique, there are plans for other similar facilities in the works across the country.

More

Safety Tips For The Holidays

Lights, decorations, good food… every year, as we celebrate the holidays, we fill our homes with seasonal cheer for ourselves and our families. However, what may seem beautiful and harmless to us may pose hidden dangers to our pets. Don’t let an emergency spoil the festivities! Below are some common holiday hazards for dogs and cats and ways to prevent them.

DANGEROUS FOODS

The following can be toxic to pets: chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, garlic, onion, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, bread dough, and sugar-free candy and gum containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.

HOLIDAY MEALS

Despite tradition, bones should never be given to pets. Even beef, ham, and other “regular” foods that are not considered toxic can cause illness in pets. If your pet is a moocher, keep a saucer of his regular treats on the table to offer when he asks. He probably won’t know the difference!

GIFTS

Even a pet-safe treat can cause stomach upset if it is new to your pet. Offer only one of these at a time (ideally, separated by a few days). If your pet becomes ill after eating a holiday treat, it will be easier to trace the source and discontinue it. Also, check new toys for sharp edges, pieces that can be chewed off, or other potential hazards.

GREENERY

Hazardous plants include mistletoe, some evergreens (including some types of pine), and holly bushes and berries. Try to keep these plants away from pets, or at least supervise pets when dangerous plants are nearby.

DECORATIONS

Tinsel, tree ornaments, ribbons, string, and garlands are some items that can be dangerous if eaten by pets. Keep these items away from pets — especially when pets are unattended. Don’t forget to cover any electrical cords or keep them out of reach.

FIRE AND CARBON MONOXIDE

Monitor pets near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and portable heaters. Also, don’t forget to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are functioning properly. Space heaters, furnaces, and idling cars (in a garage) can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in pets and humans.

CHRISTMAS TREES

Monitor your pets when they are around your holiday tree. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the base of the tree, which can be toxic (especially if there are preservatives in it). Keep electrical cords and decorative lights out of reach, too.

In many cases, if your pet has eaten or drunk something toxic, warning signs will include gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs may include tiredness and lack of appetite, especially in cats that have eaten lilies. If your pet shows any of these signs, or if you think he or she has eaten something dangerous but is not showing any signs yet, please call us right away. Treating your pet as soon as possible is essential!

We will be glad to answer any questions you have about your pet’s health. Let’s work together to make sure your entire family has a happy, healthy holiday season!

More

Pet Disaster Preparedness

Recently, a client asked that I participate in a local disaster preparedness expo.  He explained that there was a tremendous amount of information regarding human survival and little if any information for the survival and well being of his beloved family pets.  After the tragedy and adversity that our neighbors in Joplin have recently endured, I agreed to participate.   I have relied upon personal experience and summarized some notable  information from both the ASPCA and FEMA.

Effectively preparing for a disaster requires anticipation and real attention to detail.  If there was one goal that I could accomplish, I would like you to start anticipating what you’re next disaster will be like for you, your family and your pets.  The more detailed your plan, the better prepared and the greater likelihood you will survive the challenge.

I am not a Disaster Preparedness Expert, just a veterinarian.  The closest thing to a natural disaster for my family was the ice storm in the winter of 2007.  Like most who live in Southwest Missouri, our family was without electricity for 6 days.  Many families endured weeks before power could be restored.  The real challenge of this disaster was just keeping warm, because everyone endured single digit temperatures in the days immediately following the storm.  Because our home depends upon a well for a source of water, no electricity means no water.  Fortunately our business never lost electricity, so we had another location with a supply of the essentials to keep us going.       Since then, I have always thought of “Filling the Bath Tub with Water” as an acronym for disaster preparedness because had I filled our bathtubs with water before we lost electricity, I would have spent more time on keeping my home warm, rather than hauling water from our veterinary hospital.  The key to preparing for life’s next “ice storms” means anticipating our needs and organizing our supplies and equipment – working out the details – before the disaster occurs.

Borrowing trouble comes more natural to some folks than others, so if you’re not good at that, I want you to start by thinking outside the box, because each type of disaster requires different measures to keep you and your family, and pet’s safe.  Will you be able to stay in your home or will you have to evacuate?  If you can stay, will you have electricity, running water or food?  What will the weather be like?  Hot, or cold. Will the roads be safe for travel?  Flooded or ice covered.

Because everyone in my extended family lost power and heat, and my house had the only functional wood burning stove, everyone stayed at our house.  This included all the beloved pets from a family that inspired me to become a veterinarian.  After several days of close living quarters, stoking the fire, and hauling water to flush 4 toilets, my best recollection was my nerves were worn pretty thin – like my father-in-law like to say, “company and fish start to stink after 3 days”.  That was the same day the wood stoves door was left open and the flu was still closed filling our house to the rafters with smoke.

Looking back, this was only a minor “hic-up” in a week of Man vs. Wild – Arctic Survival 101, but at the time it was pretty darn aggravating.  So what did I learn?  Things are going to happen in your survival situation that you just can’t plan for.  Plan to adapt.  You can’t change the tide, so be ready to “suck it up” and roll with it.  Sometimes no amount of preparation will get you completely through the storm. Plato said it best in 400 BC “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”

Now for the details that could keep your pets out of hot water.  I believe this step can be applied to almost any situation.  Start your planning with some research, phone calls and record keeping.  Keep your research stored in a safe place and keep copies in an evacuation bag with your pet’s essential supplies.  For most of us, keeping an accurate record of our house pets is no challenge, but if you have a farm, having an accurate record of your livestock inventory will help you your neighbors track them in a disaster.  Record a list of ailments or medical conditions, medications and special foods will help you maintain the health of your animals.  Simply contact your veterinarian for a copy of your pet’s medical records.  Also collect Names, locations and phone numbers of your veterinarian, kennel and any other caregivers should be at your fingertips.  Your veterinarian can help you with a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.  Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster homes for pets and identify hotels or motels inside and outside your immediate area that accept pets.  Ask friends and relatives in and outside your area if they would be willing to take in your pet.  Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.  We recommend micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted in the animal’s shoulder area, and can be read by scanner at most animal shelters.  My last homework assignment is for you to prepare a rescue sticker or sign that can be posted in windows in case you have to evacuate without your pets.  These help rescuers workers identify and locate all your pets after the disaster has occurred. If everyone evacuates, write “EVACUATED” across the posted sign, if time allows.

Remember, leaving your pets behind is absolutely the last option. If it’s not safe for you it’s probably not safe for your pets.  They may become trapped or escape to life-threatening hazards. Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it’s important to have a predetermined shelter for your pets BEFORE the disaster strikes.  Our empty veterinary hospital’s kennel filled beyond its brim in the time span of 4 hours on Saturday morning while ice accumulated on trees and power lines.  Many of our clients who had not even lost power, were booking hotel rooms in Branson and further south in Arkansas to wait out the worsening weather condition.

The next step is to start carefully considering a designated care-giver before the disaster strikes. Your choice could change depending on your circumstance, so consider and speak with several.  Look for someone who is home, when you’re at work so they can watch your pet and even offer swapping shifts watching their pets.  Look for someone who lives close to you, a neighbor or family member. Sometimes a long drive in bad weather is not practical.  Especially with a pet who doesn’t like to travel in the car.  It might be someone you could trust with the keys your home, or someone who is willing to bring your pet into their home.  If you don’t ask, you won’t know and don’t just assume like most pet owners that, “everyone just loves my pet, after all, how couldn’t they?”  Some people have allergies to pets, and more will be less willing to take on a pet during a stressful situation.  Perhaps finding a neighbor or family members who already have pets is your best solution.  Last but not least, consider someone as a permanent caregiver in the event something should happen to you.

Now it’s time to gather your emergency supply inventory.  Let’s start with the essentials, food and water.  Plan for a minimum 7 day supply of both food and water.    The food should be rotated in accord with the manufacture expiration dates, but in general, don’t keep dry kibble longer that 2 months.  Plan on your pet eating 1 cup or can of food for every 20 lbs of ideal body weight.  A 60 pound dog will need 3 cups of dry kibble or 3 cans of dog food every 24 hours.  You average size cat will require ½ cup of dry kibble in a day.  Store 1 oz of water, for every pound of body weight, every 24 hours.  That same 60lb dog will require a half gallon of water in 1 day.  Another important item for you list is a pet first aid kit.  The ASPCA offers a complete kit $50, and offers a complete list of items at aspca.org.  You may want to review the list and add items as needed to your own first aid kit.  Depending on your pets pre-existing medical conditions, owner should have a 2 week supply of prescription medication like insulin, anticonvulsants and arthritic pain relievers.  These medications should be rotated like food to ensure their effectiveness.  Other emergency items should include;

  • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans) for cats.
  • Supply of litter or paper towels for cats and pocket pets.
  • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant.
  • Disposable garbage bags for clean-up.
  • Pet feeding dishes.
  • Extra collar, harness and leashes.
  • Photocopies of medical records
  • Recent photos of your pets for identification or lost pet posters.
  • Travel bag or pet flight kennel ideally for each pet.
  • Head mounted flashlight
  • Blankets (pillow cases for cats or pocket pets)
  • Chew toys or rawhides
  • Evacuation pack for supplies

Some final considerations in the midst of the calamity that I should mention are that animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid.  Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis. Always bring pets indoors immediately at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. In addition, separate dogs and cats.  Even if you dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally.  In the event you take your pets with you, have a plan to pack your vehicle with family members, pet crates and supplies.  And remember, if you think you may be gone for only a day; assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks.

More