Category Archives: Health

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass

A common question asked by dog owners is why their dog eats grass.  This is particularly concerning to owners whose dogs eat grass and then immediately vomit.

The commonly presented explanation is that dogs eat grass to settle their stomach when it’s upset.  A dog that vomits immediately after consumption of grass may very well be using grass in this way.  That being said, there can be a myriad of other reasons for consumption of grass.  Some dogs even seem to graze on grass.

So why do eat grass?

Dogs, as we know, are most closely related to wolves.  While most breeds seem distant from their wild ancestors, they still do possess characteristics of wolves.  One of these characteristics is remaining omnivores.  Cats are obligate carnivores and thus primarily subsist on a diet of meat.  They will occasionally eat grass for moisture or fun.  Dogs on the other hand are omnivores and, like humans, prefer a diet that contains both meat and vegetables or greens. 

Analysis of wolf diets done by Steve Brown who wrote Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet noted that wolves, while consisting primarily on a meat diet, consumed the entire prey animal – including the stomach.  As their prey was typically herbivores, that meant that wolves often ate grass that their prey had eaten making grass a natural part of their diet.  Thus, it isn’t at all odd that dogs may also consume and graze on grass.  In fact, it may contain essential nutrients that your dog’s commercial diet may have in short supply. 

Grass, particularly in the summer months, is also packed full of moisture.  This makes grass a particularly appetizing snack as it is green and luscious.  Dogs consuming grass for this reason may very well select specific stalks to munch on just to get a little extra moisture. 

When dogs consume grass to settle a stomach, they often do throw up after consumption.  There is a reasonable explanation for this.  A dog hoping to settle a stomach will consume the grass rapidly which may agitate the stomach lining inducing regurgitation.  If your dog appears to do this to excess, there may be an underlying health issue that ought to be addressed by a veterinarian, particularly if the dog has never consumed grass and/or is eating a large quantity and vomiting it up immediately. 

In conclusion, there can be a myriad of reasons a dog may eat grass and this may or may not be a matter of concern.  If your dog is consuming grass regularly and in small amounts and does not vomit after, it is nothing to be concerned about—your dog simply enjoys eating grass.  You may even want to add vegetables to your dog’s diet—although they tend to prefer cooked veggies over raw.  If your dog vomits after consuming grass very rapidly they may just have a slightly upset stomach and is certainly something to keep an eye on.  If this behavior persists, it may be time to schedule a vet visit and make sure there is no serious underlying cause for the behavior, particularly if it’s out of the ordinary. 


Deer Tick

Are You Ticked Off about Ticks?

Life Cycle of Deer Ticks in the northeast/mid-Atlantic/upper mid-western United States.

Larval deer ticks are active in August and September but these ticks are pathogen-free. Ticks become infected with pathogens when larvae (or nymphs) take a blood meal from infectious animal hosts. Engorged larvae molt over winter and emerge in May as poppy-seed sized nymphal deer ticks. Please note that most cases of Lyme disease are transmitted from May through July, when nymphal-stage ticks are active. Adult-stage deer ticks become active in October and remain active throughout the winter whenever the ground is not frozen. Blood-engorged females survive the winter in the forest leaf litter and begin laying their 1,500 or more eggs around Memorial Day (late May). These eggs hatch in July, and the life-cycle starts again when larvae become active in August.

Click on a tick row to view larger images and more information about tick species.

Deer ticks, ixodes scapularis
Deer ticks, Ixodes scapularis
Dog ticks, Dermacentor variabilis
LoneStar ticks, Amblyomma americanum
Brown Dog ticks, Rhipicephalus sanguineus
Western-Blacklegged ticks, Ixodes pacificus
Rocky Mts Wood Tick, Dermacentor andersoni

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted from infected ticks to dogs/cats/people through a tick bite.  Any time a tick attaches to your animal or yourself, there is a risk of Lyme disease being contracted.  If an uninfected tick bites an infected dog and then, later, an uninfected dog, Lyme disease will be spread. 

Early symptoms of Lyme disease include lameness, fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite.  If you are fortunate, these symptoms will occur and treatment will be started early.  However, Lyme disease can by asymptomatic, in other words no symptoms will occur.  As such, the earliest symptom may be renal (kidney) failure.  Renal failure is difficult to treat and often fatal if not caught early. 

Dogs should be tested using some form of heartworm/lyme combo blood test at least once a year.  Doing so ensures that if a dog does contract Lyme disease and is asymptomatic, the disease may be caught early enough to prevent renal failure and other serious symptoms.  This test can and should be done during the yearly exam and vaccination booster at the veterinarian.  Certain blood tests (the most common being the Idexx snap test) will give results nearly immediately.

Treatment for Lyme disease is a course of an antibiotic known as doxycycline the dosage of which is about 2-5 mg per 1 pound of body weight.  This antibiotic can cause very severe side effects including severe stomach upset and nausea.

Lyme and Tick Prevention

Due to the possible side effects of the antibiotic and the debilitating nature of the disease, vaccination for Lyme is heavily recommended, particularly in dogs that are outside in tall grass or in the woods commonly.  This vaccination should prevent your dog from contacting Lyme disease.  The first given vaccination requires a booster three to four weeks after the vaccination is administered and then the vaccination is required once yearly.  If the vaccination is not administered every year, the booster will have to be repeated. 

Vaccinations, however, are not 100% effective.  This is true of every vaccination on the market.  As such, a year round flea and tick preventative is recommended.  This is especially true of the Northeastern Coast where Lyme disease is considered endemic.  Within Pennsylvania, Western PA and Pittsburgh and the surrounding area are considered hotbeds of Lyme disease and year round preventative is crucial.  A tick that cannot attach cannot spread Lyme disease. Preventing tick bites is the first line of defense for keeping your pets safe.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medicine Association) recommends several methods of prevention.  Certain flea and tick products cannot be given to animals under a certain weight or age.  Your veterinarian can make appropriate recommendations regarding which flea and tick product is best for your animal.  There are many different products on the market today that protect your pets from tick-transmitted diseases. The most popular tick bite prevention products are topical sprays and spot-ons. Correctly and timely applied to your pets skin, these products can greatly reduce the chances of tick bites.

Commonly recommended monthly preventatives are Frontline Plus, Nexgard, Advantage II, or Advantix II.  Nexgard is a chewable tablet. Frontline Plus, Advantage II, and Advantix II are topical ointments placed at the nape of the neck.  There is also a highly effective flea and tick collar (Seresto collars) which lasts eight months.  All of these will prevent ticks from attaching and thus spreading Lyme.  Products that kill on contact will keep your pet from bringing in ticks that may pose a risk to you or your family members.

Merial Whole body protection Kills Ticks Displays tick repellency activity Kills Fleas Water Resistant Safe for cats Safe for dog/cat households
NEXGARD for dogs
Afoxolaner
NEXGARD website
X X   X X   X
K9 Advantix II
Permethrin* /Imidacloprid*
K9 Advantix II website
X X X X X   X
Frontline Plus
Fipronil* / Methoprene*
Frontline.com website
X X   X X X X
Advantage II
Imidacloprid*
Advantage II website: dogs | cats
X     X X X X
Seresto Collar
Flumethrin*/ Imidacloprid
Seresto website
X X X X X X X
Preventic Collar
Amatraz*
Virbacvet.com website
  X     X    

Protection Tip: Groom your pets

Grooming pets after a walk outside through the woods or trails can help protect your pet and family. Dogs and cats typically encounter many more ticks than people do. Because they have thick fur, ticks may take a while before biting a dog or cat. If your dog or cat comes into the house before the tick is attached, their ticks may latch onto you or other family members.

How To Remove Ticks Using Ticked Off Tick Remover

On People

 

On Animals

     

May be used in any direction to remove ticks, from front, back or side.

(Note the different direction in photos)

Once the tick has been isolated, is clearly visible and free from obstruction, place the wide part of the notch on the skin near the tick (hold skin taut if necessary). Applying slight pressure downward on the skin, slide the remover forward so the small part of the notch is framing the tick.

Continuous forward sliding motion detaches the tick.

(Do not pry, lever or lift up.)

The tick is now completely removed for disposal (or may be saved for testing).

Treat the wound as needed.

Clean your tick remover with alcohol or similar disinfectant.

For adult and adult supervised use; not a toy

The products below are carried at and recommended by Misty Pines.

Seresto CollarTicked Off Tick RemoverBioGroomAdam's Flea and Tick SprayK9 Advantix IIK9 Advantage IIFrontline PlusTick Key

Seresto® for dogs Voted Best New Flea & Tick Control


See for yourself what Seresto® has to offer, and why dog owners like you choose this easy-to-use collar to help protect their dogs against fleas and ticks.

  • No need to remember to apply monthly
  • KILLS fleas
  • REPELS and KILLS ticks
  • If a tick is repelled or killed, it cannot attach to your dog and transmit organisms that may cause disease.

Seresto Collar for Small dogs = $64.99
Seresto Collar for Large dogs = $69.99

Ticked Off Tick Remover

    • The ticked off tick remover is safe, effective and easy-to-use
    • A specially designed notch grabs the tick at skin level and removes it completely in one motion
    • Bowl-shaped end securely contains the tick for easy disposal
    • Helps reduce risk of disease; veterinarian and physician endorsed
    • Measures 6-inch length by 4-inch width by 1-inch height; available in white color

Repel-35


INSECT CONTROL SPRAY
Bio-Groom’s Repel-35 is useful to control fleas & ticks. Made with Lanolin and Aloe in a water based formula, the ability to control these pests for 35 days enhances your pets health and happiness, when used according to label instructions.

16 oz. = $11.99

Active Ingredient
*Permethrin 0.50%

Inert Ingredients 99.50%
100.00%
*(3- phenoxyphenyl) methyl (+/-) cis/ trans 3- (2,2- dichloroethenyl) 2,2 – dimethylcyclopropanecarboxylate. Cis/ trans ratio: min. 35%(+/-) cis and max. 65% (+/-) trans.

CAUTION – KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN

Adams™ Flea & Tick Spray

Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spray provides quick relief from biting fleas and continuous killing of flea eggs laid on the animal, breaking the flea life cycle. The elimination of both adult fleas and flea eggs is important because adult fleas live on your pet, causing discomfort and skin irritation, while the vast number of eggs they lay fall off and develop in your house.

    Key Benefits

  • Kills adult fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, ticks and repels mosquitoes
  • Breaks flea life cycle for up to 2 months
  • Continuous protection against pests
  • May need to use a house treatment, if not caught early enough
  • Provides instant relief from biting fleas

16oz = $14.99

K9 Advantix II


K9 Advantix II is a once-a-month topical application for dogs and puppies that REPELS and kills ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. K9 Advantix II contains imidacloprid, permethrin and pyriproxyfen that work in concert to REPEL and kill parasites that can potentially transmit disease-causing organisms.

    Key Benefits

  • REPELS and kills ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. REPELS biting flies and kills lice, too
  • Kills ALL life stages of fleas and prevents development of fleas, flea eggs, larvae, and pupae
  • Prevents fleas on a treated dog from reinfesting the home
  • Kills fleas within 12 hours, and kills reinfesting fleas within 2 hours
  • Waterproof

Indications
K9 Advantix II is indicated for the prevention and treatment of ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, biting flies and lice on dogs and puppies 7 weeks of age or older.
K9 Advantix II is available in 4 weight-bands that correspond with the body weight of the dog. Each weight band is available in packs of 4 or 6 applicator tubes.

Dog Weight K9 Advantix® II Volume Availability Price
10 lbs. and under small dog 0.4 mL 4-packs ?
11-20 lbs. medium dog 1.0 mL 4-packs $57.99
21-55 lbs. large dog 2.5 mL 4-packs/6-packs $61.99/$92.99
Over 55 lbs. extra large dog 4.0 mL 4-packs $92.99

K9 Advantage II


Advantage II contains an adulticide (imidacloprid) and an insect growth regulator (pyriproxyfen) to kill all life stages of fleas. Furthermore, it kills fleas through contact, so they don’t have to bite your dog to die. One convenient application of Advantage II keeps working for one month.
Target Parasites
Adult fleas, flea larvae, flea eggs, lice

    Key Benefits

  • Kills all flea life stages
  • Prevents fleas on a treated dog from infesting your home
  • Kills fleas within 12 hours of initial application
  • Kills reinfesting fleas within 2 hours
  • Works through contact, so fleas don’t have to bite to die
  • Waterproof
Dog Weight K9 Advantix® II Availability Price
10 lbs. and under small dog 4-packs $55.99
11-20 lbs. medium dog 4-packs $57.99
21-55 lbs. large dog 4-packs $61.99
Over 55 lbs. extra large dog 4-packs $92.99
Cats cat 4-packs $55.99

Frontline Plus


What is Frontline Plus?
Frontline Plus is a monthly topical flea and tick preventative for dogs and cats. Frontline Plus kills 100% of adult fleas on your pet within 12 hours and 100% of all ticks and chewing lice within 48 hours. Frontline Plus contains an insect growth regulator, S-methoprene, which kills flea eggs and larvae. It’s effective against all stages of the brown dog tick, the American dog tick, the lone star tick and the deer tick (the major carrier of Lyme disease). (3 Pack = 3 doses which lasts 3 months.)
For:
Cats/Kittens and Dogs/Puppies (8 weeks of age and older)

    Key Benefits

  • Kills all existing fleas on your pet within 12 hours
  • Each application provides a full month of protection
  • Also aids in the control of sarcoptic mange infections in dogs
  • Great for pets that swim since it’s waterproof
  • Kills ticks and chewing lice

How it Works:
Frontline Plus contains fipronil, a broad-spectrum insecticide and slow-acting poison that disrupts the central nervous system of fleas and ticks and S-Methoprene, an insect growth regulator that kills flea eggs and larvae. The active ingredients are stored in the sebaceous glands and are wicked out of the hair follicles and continuously re-applied to the coat for long-lasting, waterproof protection.

Dog Weight K9 Advantix® II Availability Price
Cats cats 4-packs $55.99
0-22 lbs. medium dog 4-packs $55.99
45-88 lbs. large dog 4-packs $61.99
89-132 lbs. extra large dog 4-packs $92.99

Tick Key


Place the key over the tick in the slot. Pull key away from tick sliding along the skin. The Tick is removed easily, head and all!

This design has been perfected and tested for over eight years and is responsible for the removal of thousands of ticks of all sizes including deer ticks and dog ticks.

TickKey is fabricated from high-strength anodized aluminum.

TickKey is currently available in our 6 original metallic colors; Green, Blue, Orange, Purple, Red, Pewter & we have multiple new colors that vary.

TickKey is flat and is easily stored in a wallet, pocket, on a key chain, collar, saddle, or leash.


Sources:

http://www.petsandparasites.org/expert-insights/the-forecasts-are-in-2017-will-be-a-big-year-for-heartworm-disease-and-lyme/

http://www.tickencounter.org of the University of Rhode Island

https://www.tickedoff.com/

 

Vaccinating to Build Strong Defenses

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Vaccines are products designed to trigger protective immune responses and prepare the immune system to fight future infections from disease-causing agents. Vaccines stimulate the immune system’s production of antibodies that identify and destroy disease-causing organisms that enter the body. Vaccines provide immunity against one or several diseases that can lessen the severity or prevent certain diseases altogether. Experts agree that widespread use of vaccinations within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. Vaccinations protect your pet from highly contagious and deadly diseases and can improve your pet’s overall quality of life. Most vaccinations should be repeated again in 3-4 weeks if it is the first time a dog has been vaccinated against a particular disease, and given up to 21 days to build the fullest immunity. Optimally a dog should be titer tested before vaccinating to determine if it needs help to build a stronger defense, and if so, it should be vaccinated again towards that particular disease to stimulate the immune system to build a stronger defense towards it.

For most pets, vaccination is effective in preventing future disease and only rarely will a vaccinated pet have insufficient immunity to fight off the disease. The first dose of a vaccine serves to prime the animal’s immune system against the virus or bacteria while subsequent doses help further stimulate the immune system to produce the important antibodies needed to protect an animal from diseases. Many vaccinations provide adequate immunity when administered every few years, while others require more frequent schedules to maintain an acceptable level of immunity that will continually protect your pet. Bordetella is one of these. Many factors are taken into consideration when establishing a pet’s vaccination plan. You and your veterinarian should discuss and tailor a program of vaccinations and preventive health care that will help your pet maintain a lifetime of infectious disease protection. You can discuss and encourage with your veterinarian to vaccinate your dog optimally throughout its life from puppyhood to build a strong immunity.

Brief Overview of Canine Cough

Infectious tracheobronchitis is an inflammation of the mucus membrane of the trachea and bronchi, which causes canine cough, an upper-respiratory illness that is similar to a chest cold in humans. There are at least forty agents that are capable of causing canine cough. The most common organisms associated with Canine Cough are the bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica and two viruses called Parainfluenza virus and Adenovirus. Bordetella or any combination thereof is most often passed on through the air. The incubation period of the disease is roughly 3-10 days and an infected pet may be contagious for three weeks after showing the first signs of illness and up to 2 weeks before showing any clinical symptoms. The main symptom is a hacking cough that can sound like a goose honk, sometimes accompanied by sneezing and nasal discharge, which can last from a few days to several weeks. Although the cough is very annoying, it does not usually develop into anything more serious; however, just as a common cold, it can lower the dog’s resistance to other diseases making it susceptible to secondary infections, so the dog must be observed closely to avoid complications. Canine cough can be an especially serious problem for puppies and geriatric dogs whose immune systems may be weaker.

Just as in the case of the common cold, canine cough is not “cured” but must run its course; however, any dog displaying signs of a secondary infection should see a veterinarian. Many times an antibiotic will be prescribed as a precaution and sometimes cough suppressants will be used to reduce excessive coughing. Canine cough, just like flu and cold season, is often seasonal. It usually occurs in spring and late fall.

How is it Transmitted?

Airborne organisms are carried in the air by microscopic water vapor and dust particles. The particles, if inhaled, by a susceptible dog, may attach to the lining of the trachea and upper airways. These organisms are easily spread when infected dogs sneeze, bark, cough, or even drool. Some dogs are carriers and can spread the infection for months while not showing any signs. These “carriers” are a source of infection to other dogs. Contact can also occur through hands and clothing. This virus can be present at dog shows, pet stores, your veterinarians office, and even in your own backyard.

Why are the Chances of Catching it Greater in a Kennel?

A dog encounters two conditions in boarding facilities that do not typically occur at home: 1) they are with a number of potentially contagious dogs 2) the stress and excitement of a less familiar environment, both of which can result in lowered resistance to disease. The more frequently a dog visits the kennel, the greater the chance the dog will gain immunity to the disease. Even during a widespread outbreak, only a small percentage of exposed dogs are affected.

How is it Treated?

Many dogs that contract canine cough will display minor signs of coughing that may last 7-10 days and will not require any medication. The majority of dogs will continue to eat and play except for the annoying, dry, non-productive cough.

The dog should be kept warm in an isolated area with good ventilation. It should be free of drafts. The dog can also be put in a steam filled room or use a cold mist vaporizer several times a day. It is important to keep the dog quiet; any excessive barking may irritate the trachea even more. In some cases the dog may develop a secondary infection. The dog may run a fever, not eat, will have a thick yellow or green nasal discharge, and wheezing. The dog with a weak or a compromised immune system may develop secondary health problems like pneumonia which will require immediate veterinary care.

How Can I Protect My Dog?

There are three types of vaccines for canine cough; intranasal, injectable, and oral. Some dogs will develop mild symptoms similar to canine cough when given this vaccine. The symptoms will last for several days and the dog will not require medical treatment, but they can also spread it to other dogs. This is the main reason your dog should not be around other dogs after receiving the vaccine. The downfall with these vaccines is that they have a short duration. High risk dogs should be vaccinated twice a year. A high risk dog would be one that goes to the kennel, grooming shop, daycare, dog park, or is involved in group training classes. Dogs that have been properly vaccinated with Bordetella, Parainfluenza, and Adenovirus can still contract the disease, but the symptoms are usually not as severe and do not last as long. If you plan to board your dog or protect it from exposure, remember to vaccinate at least 10 days, and optimally 21 days to potential exposure to allow full protective immunity to build up. Five days prior just gives a dog a start and only a base line of immunity.

The Importance of Vaccinations and Why Does Misty Pines Require Bordetella every 6 Months?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, for complete canine cough protection, they recommend Intranasal Intra-Trac ll ADT for dogs that are going to be boarded. Some dogs have very compromised immune systems, most notably under the stressors of being in a novelty environment with numbers of dogs. Immunity of Bordetella vaccine has a short duration and has not been scientifically proven to be effective for a full year. The efficacy of the vaccine is anywhere from six to nine months based on various researches. Since we have implemented this policy in 2007, we have seen a substantial decrease in dogs that have developed canine cough while at our facility. Those that have developed it have seemed to have had a shorter duration with milder symptoms and have recovered quickly.

DA2PPC or DHLPP is a multivalent vaccine for dogs that protects against the viruses indicated: D for Distemper, A2 for canine adenovirus Type 2 which offers cross protection to adenovirus type 1, P for canine parvovirus, P for parainfluenza, and L for leptospirosis, H for infectious canine hepatitis which is another name for adenovirus type 1. H is sometimes uses instead of A. In DA2PPC, the C indicates canine coronavirus.

This vaccine is given to puppies at 8 weeks of age, followed by 12 weeks of age, and then 16 weeks of age. This vaccine is given again at 1 year of age and then annually, or every 3 years. Some veterinarians recommended vaccine schedules that may differ from this. DA2PPC does not include Bordetella, but the combination of Bordetella with the DA2PPC helps to prevent canine cough by minimizing the contraction of adenovirus, distemper, parainfluenza, and Bordetella.
Be aware that vaccinating with just the bordetella vaccine alone (contains only the Bordetella agent) may not be fully protective because of the other infectious agents that are involved with producing the disease. Some of the other agents such as Parainfluenza and Adenovirus are part of the routine multivalent vaccinations generally given yearly to dogs.

The intra-nasal Bordetella vaccine may produce immunity slightly faster than the injectable vaccine if the dog has never been previously vaccinated for bordetella.

It is generally assumed that the intranasal route of inoculation works the fastest in getting protective levels of immunity established. However, studies have indicated that in dogs that have been previously immunized by either the intranasal or injectable route and that have some level of immunity already present, vaccination by the injectable route actually boosts immunity faster than the intranasal route.

When the injectable vaccine is given as an annual booster (to boost any immune levels already present) the maximum effects of the vaccine will be achieved after five days of the vaccination.

So when should the intranasal route be utilized? Some veterinarians suggest that it be used only in unvaccinated dogs and in young pups receiving their first vaccination. In these unvaccinated animals the first immunization would be via the intranasal route and then an additional inoculation by the injectable route are given. Then yearly injectable inoculations are given to enhance the protective levels of immunity.

Intranasal vaccines create localized immunity that greatly reduces the incidence of clinical signs and illness.

Dogs that are vaccinated can also shed the virus and cause other dogs to become mildly infected and show mild signs. This shedding usually lasts less than 72 hours. In addition, it takes up to four days after vaccination for dogs to develop protection. When you combine these facts, you will see why it is strongly recommend that a dog not be given intranasal vaccine within 72 hours of coming into contact with other susceptible dogs. Do not give the vaccine the day before a dog show, boarding, etc. Try to give at least four days before contact with other dogs and preferably seven days. This way you will help to protect your dog from becoming infected by other dogs, and help protect those dogs from becoming infected by yours. Discuss and encourage your veterinarian to vaccinate your dog optimally throughout its life to build the strongest immunity to this common canine cough.

An End Note…

It is impossible for us to tell when there might be a dog at Misty Pines that has been exposed to canine cough prior to their arrival. An infected dog may not show visible signs of infection until up to 10 days after being exposed. We are continually making strong efforts to avoid an outbreak in our facility by requiring biannual Bordetella vaccinations, extensive cleaning and disinfecting procedures in our facility, and public awareness about the causes of Canine Cough. While we make every effort to prevent the occurrence of Canine Cough in our kennel, we are unable to give 100% assurance that someone’s dog will not bring it to our facility. This is the same assurance that a teacher can’t give you when your child goes to school and catches a cold or the flu from another student. If Misty Pines detects a coughing dog that is boarding we immediately isolate it into our quarantine room and inform your emergency contact. Misty Pines has dogs that live in our facility 24/7. These dogs are vaccinated to our Misty Pines protocols and they have never been ill with canine cough due to their strong immune system against it.

References:

Journal of The American Veterinary Medical Association
Dr. Foster and Smith Educational Staff
The Merck Veterinary Manual


Dog Food Ingredient Basics

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Shopping for pet foods can be a very frustrating process, especially when there are numerous aisles of variety. There are also the claims of how their food will benefit your pet. However taking the time to read and understand the ingredients list in your dog food purchase will help you to purchase the best diet possible for your pet. Here are some tips.

Take a look at the actual ingredients and you will be surprised at what you find. Take a look at the word “real”, since when has chicken or beef not been “real?” Flavoring can be made from a natural or a chemical substance and the manufacturer may or may not list more detailed information about it. Flavoring agents can also be made from animal digest which is a cooked down broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. These animals can include “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying), road kill, or even euthanized animals.

Most of the grocery store brands have a high economic value (cheap) and contain a large amount of grain or starchy vegetables to provide texture. These high carbohydrate plant products also provide a cheap source of “energy” which also means “calories”. Gluten meals are high protein extracts from which most of the carbohydrate has been removed. They are often used to increase protein percentages without using expensive animal source ingredients. Corn gluten meal is most commonly used for this purpose and offers very little nutritional value and serves mainly to bind food together. In most cases, the foods containing vegetable proteins are the low quality foods.          

Meat by-product meals are inexpensive and less digestible than muscle meat. The ingredients of each batch can vary drastically such as head, feet, bones, etc. This in turn means that the nutritional value is not always consistent. By-products consist of parts of the animal other than meat.

Animal fat is obtained from the tissue of mammals and/or poultry.  Note that the animal source does not have to be specified and is not required to originate from “slaughtered animals.” The rendered animals can be from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. These animals again can be “4-D animals”, road kill, and euthanized animals. Another thing to be aware of is what the animal fat is preserved with.

Preservatives that can be found in pet food are BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, propylene glycol and Propyl Gallate.      

BHA and BHT have been banned from human use in many countries, but are still permitted for use in the United States. There are certain oxidative characteristics and metabolites that may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorigencity. Ethoxyquin was originally developed as a stabilizer for rubber and later used as a pesticide for fruit and a color preservative for spices. It has never been proven to be safe for the lifespan of an animal. It has been linked to thyroid, kidney, reproductive, immune related illnesses, and cancer. Propyl Gallate is used as an antioxidant to stabilize cosmetics, food packaging materials, and foods containing fats. It is suspected of causing liver disease and cancer. The preservatives that you want to see in dog food are mixed tocopherols, citric acid, and rosemary extract.

NOTE: Some ingredients, usually fish products, may contain artificial preservatives that are not disclosed on the ingredient list; if they are not added by the manufacturer, they are not required to be listed. Look for assurances by manufacturers using ocean fish products that their foods do NOT contain any artificial preservatives.

Coloring agents have no nutritional value and do not need to be in pet food. They are added mainly to look good to us so in turn we think our dog will enjoy eating it. The reason is that the color of food speaks to humans’ innate perceptions about the value of food items. Coal tar and petrochemicals are the main sources of artificial colors. More than one artificial color has been banned and pulled off the market over the last several decades because it was ultimately found to cause cancer. The safety of those still allowed on the market is highly questionable. Artificial colors contribute to all sorts of health problems, the most notable of which are the symptoms diagnosed as (ADHD), a behavioral pattern often brought on by Yellow #5 food dye. Children are being fed these chemicals in such large quantities that they begin to have nervous system issues such as ADHD, learning disabilities, or violent behavior.

Makes you wonder when our pets are fed these chemicals, if it doesn’t contribute to some behavior problems such as aggression and hyperactivity.

Beef & bone meal and pork & bone meal are common protein sources found in low quality pet foods. They are a byproduct made from beef or pork parts that are unsuitable for human consumption. It can incorporate the entire cow or pigs, including bones, but the quality cut of meats have already been removed. These ingredients are an inexpensive and low quality way to boost the protein percentage in the food. Meat & bone meal can consist of animal parts obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. It can also include pus, cancerous tissue, and decomposed tissue.

Salt is a necessary mineral and is generally present in sufficient quantities in the ingredients pet foods include. Just like for us, too much salt intake is unhealthy for them. In low quality foods, it is often used in excessive amounts to make the food taste more flavorful.

Sweeteners may also be added to pet foods. Examples of them are molasses, corn syrup, fructose, sorbitol, sugar, and dl-alpha tocopherol acetate. Sugars and sweeteners are an unnecessary ingredient in pet foods, added to make the product more attractive. It can cause obesity, nervousness, cataracts, tooth decay, arthritis, and allergies. Fructose when used in small quantities, serves as a nutrient for probiotics, specifically bifidobactera. It will eventually ferment it and produce beneficial enzymes.

Menadione Sodium Bisulfate complex is a source of synthetic Vitamin K3 in dog food. Menadione is added as an inexpensive vitamin K supplement in commercial foods. The common statement as to why it is added is “to help with blood clotting”, yet it is scientifically proven that the effectiveness of menadione on blood clotting is inferior. Veterinarians will administer vitamin K1 as an antidote to dogs who have for example ingested rat poison, which causes internal bleeding and serious clotting issues. The synthetic version of Vitamin K3 has not been specifically approved for long term use and has been linked to many serious health issues in humans. It has been banned from use in food and supplements for human use in many European countries due to serious side effects, including permanent damage and deaths. It can cause cytotoxicity in liver cells, has possible mutagen effects, damages the natural vitamin K cycle, causes hemolytic anemia and hyperbilirubinemia, irritation of skin and mucous membranes, allergic reactions and eczema are just some of the health issues associated with menadione.

Ingredients need to be labeled and listed in order according to their weight before processing on the food label along with the guaranteed analysis of crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, and moisture. A pet food manufacturer could make a mock product that has an acceptable guaranteed analysis of 10% Protein, 6.5% fat, 2.4% fiber and 68% moisture, similar to what you `would see on many canned pet food labels. The only problem would be that the ingredients were old leather work boots, used motor oil, crushed coal, and water.

Contrary to what many people believe, meat sources in “meal” form are not inferior to whole, fresh meats as long as they are from a specified type of animal. Meat meal consists of meat and skin with or without the bones, but exclusive of feathers/hair, heads, feet, horns, entrails etc. Meat meals have had most of the moisture removed, but meats in their original, “wet” form still contain up to 75% water. Once the food reaches its final moisture content of about 9-12%, the meat will have shrunk to sometimes as little as 1/4 of the original amount, while the already dehydrated meal form remains the same and you get more concentrated protein per pound of finished product. This means that the food may only be left with 4 ounces of actual meat content per pound of fresh meat. Many foods already contain less than one pound of meat per 2-3 pounds of grain to begin with. It is best to pick a food that contains quality meat meal as well as some fresh meat.

The food bag will have a nutritional adequacy statement listed on it. It may state either of the following statements: “(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO.” This means the product contains the proper amount of protein, calcium, and other recognized essential nutrients needed to meet the needs of the healthy animal. “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition.” This means that the product, or “lead” member of a “family” of products, has been fed to dogs or cats under strict guidelines and found to provide proper nutrition. These two statements do not really tell you anything about the product, except that it contains the minimum of nutrients the AAFCO deems appropriate to keep your dog alive and that he will survive while eating it.

Pet food labels may also contain the words “premium”, “ultra”, “gourmet”, “natural”, “human grade”, “human quality”, “table quality”, etc. enticing us to believe that there are higher quality ingredients contained in it. They are not required to contain any different ingredients nor are they required to have higher nutritional standards than any other “complete and balanced” product. The word “natural” does not have an official definition either. “Natural” may be used when there is no use of artificial flavor, artificial color, or artificial preservatives. “Natural” is not the same as “organic.” The latter term refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown or animals were raised. While it is true that many terms used to market a pet food are not legally defined, the manufacturers of quality brands go out of their way to supply their customers with additional information, such as using hormone free animal products, pesticide free grains, providing the USDA grades of ingredients, avoiding genetically modified products and so on.

Manufacturers are not required to include substances in the ingredient list that they did not add to the product themselves. Products they obtain from their suppliers may still contain undesirable ingredients such as synthetic preservatives or other additives. An example is fish meal, which, according to US Coast Guard regulations, must be preserved with Ethoxyquin if it is not intended for human consumption.

Keep in mind that there is no “best” food for all dogs, as each dog is an individual. What works well for one dog may not work as well for another. In addition, it is better for a dog to eat a variety of foods, rather than just one food for its whole life.

Can you imagine as a human eating the same diet every day! When we humans try different kinds of foods, it keeps life interesting and lessens the boredom factor and gives us balanced nutrition. Feeding your dog different diets can help fill in nutritional gaps that a particular food or brand might have, as well as making it less likely that your dog will develop food allergies. The cliché “Variety is the spice of life” very much holds true to dogs also. Saving healthy human leftovers and   periodically mixing that healthy human food (see Ingredients to Avoid below) with your dog’s healthy dog food will help keep your pet healthy and happy.

 

Bibliography:

 

 


Types of Dog Foods

There are four types of dog foods: canned, dry, semi-moist and raw. To a certain extent, the type of dog food determines which ingredients can be included in the ration, as well as the ultimate cost. Let’s look at each of the choices individually.

Canned Diets

Nature's Variety Canned Dog FoodCanned diets are sometimes referred to as “wet” or “moist.” There’s a good reason for this – they contain about 75 percent water. These are the common varieties of dog food that line the shelves in grocery stores and pet supply outlets. The percentage of water may seem excessive, but this is not significantly different than the amount of water present in fresh meat or in living animals. It may seem that the water content is designed to provide more filling than nutrients, but there is a reason for this. All canned foods are sterilized by high-pressure steam. The high water content is needed to ensure adequate and uniform heat penetration without burning some areas while inadequately cooking others.

Most meats used in canned foods are ground while they are still frozen. This helps reduce bacterial contamination of the product while promoting efficient grinding. The meat is then mixed with ground cereal, chopped vegetables and micronutrients. It is interesting to note that, for the most part, manufacturers discount the nutritional value of the ingredients and add vitamin and mineral “premixes” to the ration to meet the actual nutritional requirements of dogs. So, despite all the advertising hype of the nutritional value of the ingredients used in a dog’s food, most manufacturers concede that the processing removes much of the wholesomeness and goodness of the ingredients.

The “maintenance” diets are formulated with one-third meat and two thirds cereal, while the “luxury” or “gourmet” diets usually mix two-thirds meat with one third cereal. Even the so-called “all-meat” rations usually have about 10 percent carbohydrates. At this stage, some ingredients are “cold processed” by loading the ingredients directly in the can. Other manufacturers first heat the mixture to about 180 degrees F., which may produce colors and flavors, inactivate enzymes, and cause controlled swelling of starches. The canned ingredients are then sealed and loaded into a pressure cooker and processed.

Dry Foods

Dry foods, often referred to as “kibble,” were the first dog foods available commercially. Although they were originally baked on sheets and broken into pieces by a kibbling roller, this process has been replaced by extrusion. Extrusion uses pressure heating and steam cooking to treat the cereal-based product. The usual ingredients for these extruded dry foods include a source of protein (soybean meal, meat, fish, or poultry meal) and a carbohydrate (corn, wheat, barley, fat and vitamins and minerals).

To make dry foods, the ingredients are mixed together and steam heat is added to begin the cooking process. Later, the ingredients are removed to a pressure cooker and the finished product gets extruded and cut into appropriate pieces. At the final stage, the “kibble” can be sprayed with hot fats to increase palatability. The moisture content of these foods is reduced to about one percent by the use of hot air drying. Most extruders have a limitation in the fat content of the ration (8-10 percent) for mechanical reasons, but newer, twin-screw extruders can actually create a high-fat, dry dog food, (30 to 40 percent fat). Even with the old extruders, the fat content can be increased by overspraying the dry food once it is removed from the barrel of the extruder.

Dry Dog Food

Semi-moist Foods

Semi-Moist Dog FoodSemi-moist dog foods are intermediate between the dry and canned foods in their moisture content. These are the products that often look like hamburgers made for dogs, containing 25 – 35 percent water. It is hard to get much reliable information about semi-moist processing, because pet-food companies still regard this as a closely guarded trade secret. The trick to making a semi-moist dog food is to create a ration that isn’t canned, that contains appreciable moisture, that has a long shelf life, and that is not subject to mold growth. To accomplish this, “humectants” are added to the ration that allows the food to be “moist” yet bind the water so it is inaccessible to microbes. The most common humectants are glycols, sucrose (table sugar), and phosphoric acid.

Raw Dog Food

Raw dog food diets are controversial. But the popularity of the diets — which emphasize raw meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables — is rising.

Raw Dog FoodRacing greyhounds and sled dogs have long eaten raw food diets. Extending those feeding practices to the family pet is a more recent idea, proposed in 1993 by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. He called his feeding suggestions the BARF diet, an acronym that stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

Billinghurst suggested that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated: Raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. Grain-based commercial pet foods, he contended, were harmful to a dog’s health.

Raw dog food diet: What it is

A raw dog food diet typically consists of: Muscle meat, often still on the bone, bones, either whole or ground, organ meats such as livers and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery, apples or other fruit, some dairy, such as yogurt.

People Food / Table Food (Raw & Cooked)

Homemade Dog Food

We hear quite often “do not ever feed your dog table food.” What should be said is, “Do not feed your dog from the table.” If you feed your dog from the table you will be training your dog to beg for food at the table, which may be offensive and inappropriate especially when we have guests. However; it is appropriate to supplement a dog’s daily ration with healthy left over table food. We would not suggest feeding such foods as Doritos, onions, grapes, raisins or chocolate but left over eggs, meats, fish, skins, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli leaves and stems mixed in with their daily ration can be very healthy for your dog. Ensure you google search a list of unhealthy foods for dogs. One of our recommendations to keep your dog healthy is to keep a Tupperware container in your refrigerator and place healthy people food (leftovers) into that container, then mix your dog’s normal daily ration, being dry, moist or raw then as a special treat, feed them that mixture. If you want eating to be more challenging, stuff this mixture into a Kong and have your dog mentally work to get its meal. This form of feeding stimulates a dog’s mind, an excellent problem solver for your dog. There is nothing wrong with periodic healthy table food supplementation. Feeding your dog from the table will create a table beggar.

We also suggest researching the ingredients in your dog’s food to determine if they are optimal ingredients for your dog. More on this subject next month.

Visit http://missouriscenicrivers.com/baddogfoods.html for a list of foods that are dangerous to dogs.

References:

“Canine Nutrition. What Every Owner, Breeder, and Trainer Should Know” – Lowell Ackerman, D.V.M.

“Raw Dog Food Diets” – WebMD Pet Health Feature – Elizabeth Lee – Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Jeff Woods, CPDT-KA


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