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October 23, 2013

Nearly 600 U.S. pet deaths associated with Chinese jerky treats; cause is still elusive

Australian research blames unknown toxin; FDA encourages veterinarians to submit reports, data and urine samples from suspected cases.

In the wake of an Australian Veterinary Journal1 article outlining a study of dogs exposed to dried chicken treats produced in China, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week that it has received a total of approximately 3,000 reports of pet illness possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats, including 580 deaths.

The FDA has issued several warnings about jerky products imported from China since it first received reports of pet illness in 2007. However, despite ongoing efforts to identify a cause of illness, testing has been inconclusive.

Here’s what the agency does know: According to data collected since 2007, 60 percent of the reports involve gastrointestinal illness (with or without elevated liver enzymes) and about 30 percent relate to kidney or urinary signs. The remaining 10 percent of cases involve a variety of other signs, including convulsions, tremors, hives and skin irritation. About 135 of the case reports involving kidney and urinary signs were diagnosed as Fanconi syndrome, a kidney disease in which the proximal tubule doesn’t work properly and some nutrients are lost into the urine instead of being reabsorbed.

Despite the elusive search for a cause, the FDA says the rate of complaints associated with jerky treats dropped sharply after several well-known brands were removed from the market in January 2013. At that time, a study conducted by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing detected low levels of antibiotic residues in those products, prompting the recall, but the FDA believes the drop in complaints is linked to decreased availability of jerky treats rather than antibiotic residue. And new reports do continue to come in.

As the FDA has been investigating the issue, other organizations have been conducting their own research. In September, the Australian Veterinary Journal published one of the largest chicken jerky studies to date. The clinical signs focused on in the retrospective study, conducted at the University of Queensland, centered on acquired proximal renal tubulopathy. Researchers collected and analyzed data from 108 dogs diagnosed with glucosuria with blood glucose <10mmol/L and fed KraMar Supa Naturals Chicken Breast Strips. As in the U.S. illness reports, proximal renal tubulopathy in Australian dogs was reported with increased frequency beginning Sept. 18, 2007. The first case was reported two weeks after KraMar Supa Naturals Chicken Breast Strips, made in China, were introduced to the Australian market.

In the investigation, researchers analyzed signalment, presenting signs, history of feeding treats, results of urinalysis and blood tests, treatment and time to resolution of clinical signs. Study authors concluded from the 17-month study period that the treats likely contained a toxin targeting the proximal renal tubules. However, a toxin has not yet been identified. In response to their findings, the study’s authors emphasize the importance of taking a careful dietary history—including treats—and performing urinalysis in sick dogs.

The FDA is also encouraging veterinarians—through a “Dear Veterinarian” letter2—to report cases suspected of jerky treat-related illness and to collect the following data:

> how long the owner has been feeding the treat

> what else the pet has been eating (all treats, human food, and pet food), including how much is given daily of all items

> bloodwork values, especially for liver and kidney

> urinalysis results.

The agency is also requesting that veterinarians obtain a urine sample (10 ml if possible) from dogs or cats that may have illness associated with jerky treats and freeze it for Fanconi syndrome testing by the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN). The FDA says this testing will allow it to get a better idea of how many of the suspected cases involve Fanconi syndrome.

The FDA has also developed a fact sheet3 for concerned pet owners. Officials continue to caution pet owners that reports of illness from jerky treats are not limited to chicken products but also duck and sweet potato jerky products and jerky-wrapped rawhide treats. Consumers should also be aware that while reports seem to be linked to jerky treats sourced from China, manufacturers are not required to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products.

Although the FDA has stopped short of issuing a recall for implicated jerky products without a definitive cause of illness, it cautions pet owners about the potential dangers and continues to remind them that treats are not needed for a balanced diet. In the meantime, the investigation continues.

“As veterinarians, animal scientists and pet owners, we strive to make sure that the products FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine regulates are safe, effective and properly manufactured,” an FDA release states. “We understand the love and devotion pets provide, and we are determined to find the answer to this mystery.”

References

  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23980829
  2. www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/productsafetyinformation/ucm371453.htm
  3. www.fda.gov/downloads/newsevents/newsroom/factsheets/ucm371715.pdf

This is new from Dr. Jon of petplace.com:

Summer is your dog’s favorite time for road trips! But is it safe to take your dog in the car without a safety restraint? Studies say no.

We would never put our children in the car without a seatbelt. Why should our dogs be any different?

I’ve seen trauma cases where dogs sustained serious injuries in a crash. The most tragic case was a little Jack Russell Terrier named Maxi. After the crash she jumped out of the car window and was hit by on-coming traffic. Maxi died and her parents blamed themselves. They never thought a safety restraint was necessary – until it was too late.

Safety restraints can save your dog’s life in a crash… but 84% of pet owners don’t use them.

Today I’m going to give you the facts so you will take the necessary steps to protect your dog.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a car crash. And a recent AAA study shows pets are definitely a distraction. This study of dog owners found:

  • 65% were distracted at least once while driving with a dog
  • 31% became distracted by a dog climbing into their lap
  • 23% used their arms to restrain dogs while applying the brake
  • 20% let their dog sit on their lap while driving
  • 19% took one hand off the wheel to prevent pets from climbing into the front seat

One of the main reasons people don’t think about using pet safety restraints is that they don’t understand the dangers. Here’s why you should never give your dog free reign of the car.

  • Airbags are designed to protect people, not pets. Never allow your dog to ride in the front seat. A dog sitting on the driver’s lap could be stuck between the driver and the airbag if it deploys. And front airbags can be deadly to a dog – even if the dog is restrained.
  • Unrestrained pets become forceful projectiles. If you crash at 30mph your unrestrained 10-lb dog becomes a flying projectile exerting 300 pounds of force. At 50mph, your dog will fly forward with 833 pounds of force. And at only 30mph an 80-lb dog can hit passengers or the windshield with over a ton of force!
  • Threats to emergency responders. After a crash, frightened, injured or protective dogs may bite anyone that comes near.

  • Running from the car. Frightened by the crash, your dog may instinctively run from the car to be hit by oncoming traffic or cause another accident.

This is a serious safety issue. In fact, soon pet safety restraints may not be a “choice” – they may be the law.

Many states already have pet vehicle safety laws and others are following suit. States like Arizona, Florida, California, Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey issue fines of $250-$1,000 for driving with a pet on your lap. In Hawaii, driving with unrestrained pets is forbidden. If your state has no pet vehicle safety law, it could be coming soon. But don’t wait for legislation to start using a pet safety restraint. Now that you understand the dangers, act now. The risks are simply too great.

It’s our job to keep our pets safe – and that includes vehicle safety. I believe this issue is so critical that I’m giving you a special incentive to get your pet safety restraint right now.

Click through this email and you’ll save 10% off the Solvit Dog Vehicle Harness at 1-800-PetMeds. I’ll also send you a $20 gift card for PetProductAdvisor.com good for any product. Your $20 Gift Card will be sent within 7 days of your Solvit Dog Vehicle Harness purchase.

The Solvit Dog Vehicle Harness quickly connects to your car’s seatbelt to restrain your dog during sudden stops and to limit your dog’s movements. The Solvit Dog Vehicle Harness fits dogs from 6 to 120 pounds. It’s easy to use and works in any vehicle. Please take advantage of this special offer to buy the Solvit Dog Vehicle Harness.  It could save your dog’s life – and yours.

Until next time,

Dr. Jon

Another day, another new infectious disease. In the midst of a record-breaking West Nile virus outbreak that has claimed 66 lives and infected almost 1,600 in 2012, we have a new threat from my least favorite external parasite, the tick. This newly discovered virus dubbed the “Heartland virus” is yet another reason to protect you and your pet from ticks this fall.

The CDC is reporting that in 2009 two Missouri farmers fell sick after being bitten by ticks.  One man reported a single bite while the second estimated about 20 tick bites per day during a two-week period. Both initially experienced memory loss, decreased appetite, fever, diarrhea, and low platelet and white blood cell counts, all consistent with a relatively common tick-borne bacterial infection, ehrlichiosis. The first patient spent 10 days in the hospital while the other patient stayed 12 days. Both were treated with appropriate antibiotics but failed to get better. Eventually both improved but for one of the men the symptoms lingered. That’s what ultimately attracted the attention of the CDC.

The first patient, who recalled only a single tick bite, continued to have memory problems, decreased energy levels, and frequent headaches for the next two years. No one knew why. Meanwhile, a new tick-borne virus was identified in China late last year. Known as SFTSV, this infection shared the same clinical signs as those reported in the Missouri farmers. This led CDC researcher Dr. Laura McMullan to reopen those cases to search for a connection. Was it the same virus? A mutation? She needed to know because the Chinese were reporting mortality rates with their new disease as high as 12%.

Turns out she was right. The virus is related to SFSTV and demonstrates how little we understand about the unseen world of tiny ticks, parasitic insects, and the diseases they may carry. In the New England Journal of Medicine article in which the findings were published, the authors warn, “This virus could be a more common cause of human illness than is currently recognized.” Another good reason to avoid tick bites.

The Heartland virus takes its name because it is believed to be spread by ticks common in the Southeast. The lone star tick is the most common species of tick in Missouri. It’s also a common tick in North Carolina, the Southeast, and along the entire Atlantic coast. To date no ticks have been found carrying the Heartland virus. It’s unknown if the new disease can be spread from one person to another or even if the disease is definitively spread by tick bites or if another insect or factor is involved. The CDC published its early findings in order to help any patients bitten by ticks that fail to improve after antibiotic treatment.  At this point Heartland virus is not believed to carry a significant risk or death or serious illness. It does not appear to affect animals.

Now is the time to protect both you and your pet from ticks. Talk to your vet about a safe and effective tick preventive for your dog and cat. Wear long pants, use a tick repellent containing at least 20% DEET, and avoid high grass and wooded areas whenever possible to reduce your risk of tick bites.

http://www.drernieward.com/new-human-tick-borne-virus-identified/

Heartworm Disease in Dog

Sorry for the long absence but I have just been busy with life. I lost my sister recently and had other losses as well. Since I last posted in here I lost my beloved Annie Mouse on Nov. 26th, 2011. She lost her battle with a tumor on her leg that started as scar tissue and then morphed into cancer that eventually ended up in her lungs. She died peacefully at home surrounded by people who loved her and cared for her throughout her lifetime. To say I miss her is an understatement but I am enjoying being dog-free at this time. I still have my daughter’s cat Zinny, who for all practical purposes is my cat.

So rather then me rambling on here is a new article on heartworm disease in dogs. DO NOT FORGET THAT CATS CAN GET THIS DREADED DISEASE AS WELL. And they are much harder to treat for it. Most cats just drop dead when they get heartworms so PREVENTION is imperative in cats!

Dr. Dunn runs a very comprehensive website online called the PetMD so I thought that I would post his latest information about Canine Heartworm Disease on here for you. Spring and summer are always the worst time for mosquitoes but ALL year long dogs and CATS can get infected by mosquitoes carrying infective larvae. Never, ever take your pets off of heartworm prevention, especially when the treatment drugs are very hard to get now.

Considering the cost of treatment vs. the cost of monthly medication there should be no hesitation to keep your pets on this life-saving drug.

Here is Dr. T.J. Dunn, Jr. DVMs, article:

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Heartworms in Dogs

By T. J. Dunn, Jr., DVM

In many North American regions April is the time of the year when veterinarians begin to check dogs (and cats) for exposure to heartworm organisms that may have occurred during the previous mosquito season. If your pet was infected last mosquito season, evidence of the disease may be detectable then — though it really is dependent of the time in which your dog was infected. Like any other pathogenic situation, the earlier a diagnosis is made and treatment is begun, the better the chances your pet will recover properly. Give your veterinarian a call early this spring so that your dog can be tested for heartworm disease. Current heartworm tests are more accurate than what was available only a few years ago.

 

The Life Cycle of the Heartworm

 

The key to understanding heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) and how they affect your pet’s health is understanding the worm’s life cycle. Once this is understood then it will make sense why it is wiser to prevent a heartworm infection than wait and treat the worm once it is present.

 

The heartworm goes through a total of four molts to mature into an adult worm. The first two occur inside the mosquito and the next two occur inside the final host. So how does the heartworm get into your pet?

 

Heartworm disease begins with an infected animal, known as the source, that has circulating microfilaria in its blood. A mosquito stops by for a meal and inadvertently sucks up a number of circulating microfilaria in the blood. Once inside the mosquito’s body, the microfilaria go through two molts over 14 days or longer depending on the environment’s temperature. They go through their first two molts and change from an L1 to an L2 and then an L2 to an L3 (third stage of development of the larva).

 

It is an L3 that they are able to migrate into the mosquito’s salivary glands, which enables them to burrow into your pet though a mosquito’s small bite wound. Once inside an animal (host) where it continues development, the heartworm takes at least 6 to 7 months to go through the last two molts and to become sexually mature before the infection can be detected by a Heartworm test.

 

The L3 larva goes through its first molt to the L4 within the first 15 days and as early as 2-5 days after infection. The second molt from the L4 to the L5 occurs within the next 2 months. The L5 larva is considered a juvenile adult and works its way through the host’s tissues all the way to the heart as early as 70 days after first entering the host. The majority of L5 heartworm larvae arrive in the heart by 90 days, where they stay and grow rapidly in length and size. It will continue to live in the heart until it dies, typically between 5-7 years.

 

The heartworms actually continue to grow in size after reaching sexual maturity (about three months after entering the hear) and the females start to pass microfilaria into the blood. This is why some pets are infected with numerous worms. The mass of twisted and intertwined heartworms in dogs can serve as a significant mechanical blockage to the normal flow of blood. In fact, adult female worms have been known to grow up to 14 inches long; males, meanwhile, are generally shorter.

 

Think of a garden hose. If pieces of debris block the hose, pressure builds up due to the obstruction of the flow of water. This is what happens to the heart and blood vessels when more and more heartworms congregate within the right ventricle. The smaller your pet (the host) is, the fewer worms it takes to cause a problem.

 

Once the heartworm becomes an adult it will continue to produce young for many years in the dog (a shorter duration for cats and other animals, which are not the usual host for the worm). Adults have been documented to live around 7 years in dogs (2-3 years in cats).

 

This horrific display completes the normal life cycle of the heartworm.

 

Another factor is some animals develop something similar to an allergy to the heartworms, or to the microfilaria, which results in the occult heartworm infections and can cause varying signs similar to allergies or asthma. This more elusive kind of infestation occurs most often in the cat. It is not uncommon for infected cats to suddenly die from the effects of just a few worms.

 

Signs of Heartworms in Dogs

 

Two major mechanisms result in the signs of heartworms in dogs. The first is due to the damage the worms cause to the arteries in the lungs (called the pulmonary arteries). The second is the mechanical obstruction of blood flow that results from the inflammation and the number of heartworms present.

 

When a dog is first infested with heartworm there are no visible or detectable signs. In fact, even a blood test will not detect heartworms initially. The changes in dogs begin when during the final molt of the heartworm larvae; it is then that the immature L5 larvae arrive in the right ventricle and neighboring blood vessels.

 

Within days, the artery lining is damaged. The body responds by inducing inflammation of the artery, called endarteritis, and other inflammation in the area to try to heal the damage.  Unfortunately, the heartworms cause damage at a rate faster than the body can heal.

 

Over time, the arteries develop certain characteristics that are typical of heartworm disease; often these changes can be seen on X-rays. The vessels become tortuous and dilated. Blood clots and aneurysms are a common side effect, and complete blockage of small blood vessels can occur.

 

The blood then re-routes to non-worm burdened arteries. This results in complete and partial blockage of blood vessels, causing fluid to accumulate around these blood vessels in the lungs and reducing the effectiveness of the lungs’ ability to oxygenate the blood.

 

Due to the inflammation, blood vessel obstruction and fluid accumulation, your pet will begin to cough. S/he may display exercise intolerance, nosebleeds and shortness of breath, as well as a type of pneumonia secondary to the increase in lung inflammation (called pulmonary eosinophilic granulomatosis).

 

As immature L5 worms continue to arrive and mature in the heart and lungs, your dog’s reactions become more significant and the signs worsen. Blood vessels and surrounding lung tissue are damaged, which increases the blood pressure (hypertension) in the right side of the heart and vena cava  — eventually causing heart failure. The severity depends on the number of heartworms present and the dog’s reaction to the worms.

 

Over time, the immune system enters into a state of overactivity. This puts extra proteins (in the form of antibodies) into circulation, which then settle in various bodily organs and cause inflammation, tissue damage and pain in areas such as the eye, kidney, and joints.

 

One of the most severe signs of heartworms in dogs (and cats) is called Caval Syndrome or Vena Cava Syndrome.  This is seen when there are large numbers of adult worms (usually around 100 or more) invade the heart. There is almost complete blockage of all blood flow.

 

Often there will be no signs of heart disease prior to the animal’s collapse. When fainting and collapse does occur, it is accompanied by severe shock, red blood cell destruction and often death within 1-2 days.

 

Sometimes the only chance for survival in these cases is for the veterinarian to surgically remove the heartworms from the heart through the jugular vein. If a sufficient number of heartworms can be removed to re-establish sufficient blood flow, there is a slim chance of survival.

 

 

 

Diagnosis of Heartworm in Dogs

 

Any patient presented because of the suspicion of heartworm disease will have a thorough medical history taken and undergo a complete physical exam, chest X-rays and routine blood chemistry tests.

 

The definitive diagnosis (proof of diagnosis) is usually made through the use of a heartworm antigen test. Whole blood is drawn from the dog, stabilized so it will not clot, and tested for the presence of a protein shed by the female worm as she passes microfilaria. This test is very reliable and will detect heartworm burdens of 2-3 worms or higher.

 

Another common test that can be used in conjunction with the antigen test is the Knotts test or Modified Knotts test. This is where whole blood is drawn and treated to cause the blood cells to break open. Then the sample is spun in a centrifuge, the top portion is poured off, and the bottom sediment is looked at under the microscope for the presence of microfilaria.

 

Usually once a diagnosis is made via a blood test, then X-rays, CBC (complete blood count), chemistry profile (evaluates the function of the body’s organs), and urinalysis are evaluated to determine the impact of the heartworm infection on the dog’s health. Pets displaying signs of heart disease side effects may have a complete cardiac evaluation, or evaluation of any other area of the body that is indicated by the initial test results.

 

Your dog will be staged for heartworm disease as part of the evaluation. It assists your veterinarian in choosing the best method of treatment for eliminating the heartworms:

 

Stage I

Lowest risk… young healthy dogs with minimal heartworm disease evident on X-rays and all other tests are normal.

 

Stage II

Moderately affected dogs… some coughing is noticed, some difficulty breathing, changes are seen on X-rays, and blood work may reveal some kidney and/or liver damage.

 

Stage III

Severely affected dogs…  the patient has weight loss, coughing, difficulty breathing, more damage visible on x-rays, and blood tests shows kidney and/or liver damage.

 

Stage IV

Vena Cava Syndrome or Caval Syndrome…  the dog is collapsing in shock, all of the above abnormalities are more intense and the dog is dying. They are initially treated with surgical jugular removal of some worms if possible. There is no guarantee this treatment will be successful and many patients with Caval Syndrome die in spite of treatment.

 

Treating Heartworms in Dogs

 

By now, it is clear that the treatment varies from dog to dog. Each animal’s personal condition is evaluated and the treatment protocol tailored to best effect a full recovery with the least side effects. Therefore, the following will be very general regarding the medications used for treating heartworm disease and the more common side effects. In the end, you and your veterinarian will choose the best treatment protocol for your pet.

 

Treatment involves two basic areas:

1.  Patient evaluation and stabilizing for treatment procedure.
2.  Elimination of all forms (adult, larvae, and microfilaria) of the heartworm parasite.

 

Patient evaluation and stabilization

The veterinarian evaluates the overall health of the animal by conducting X-rays and blood and heart tests, then determines how to best proceed with treatment. Part of this evaluation is staging the severity of the heartworm disease in the dog (see above).

 

Some animals need to have certain conditions stabilized before heartworm treatment can proceed. Those in third stage heartworm disease, for example, may require deliberation to decide if it is best to try surgical removal of some worms through the jugular vein before any other steps of parasite elimination are considered.

 

Elimination of the Heartworm Parasite

This is a two-step process. The adult worms and the microfilaria are eliminated separately. No one medication kills both. The adults are treated first, then a different treatment is used to kill the microfilaria and migrating larvae.

 

The most serious side effects usually occur with the treatment of the adult heartworms. As the worms die they lodge in the lung arteries and block even more blood vessels than before treatment.  Besides the usual inflammation caused by the presence of the worms, the inflammation is amplified due to the decomposing worms within the blood vessels.

 

The worm destruction also releases foreign substances in to the dog’s circulation as the worms break down and are eliminated from the dog by the immune systems. A large amount of inflammation and swelling generally occurs during this period.

 

Before treatment begins, it is very important to ask your veterinarian any questions you may have about the treatment and what to expect. Some veterinarians will keep the dogs in the hospital during treatments for observation. Your doctor will make the decisions on an individual basis regarding what would be best for your dog.

 

The prescription medications used to treat the adult heartworms are called adulticides. The two adulticides used most commonly are derivatives of arsenic. It is not known exactly how these medications work to kill the heartworms. We just know they do work.

 

(NOTE: New medications may be available at any time; this listing of treatments may not be complete!)

 

The first one is thiacetarsamide. It has been used for at least half a century and is effective but can be toxic to the liver, kidneys, or cause severe irritation if the solution gets outside of the vein. The second medication is called Melarsomine dihydrochloride. With fewer side effects than thiacetarsamide, it is also an arsenic derivative and is administered by a careful intramuscular injection. It appears to be as effective and possibly more so in dogs than thiacetarsamide. It also has potential for significant side effects, so close veterinary monitoring is paramount.

 

Side effects from Melarsomine dihydrochloride can be immediate or take up to 2 weeks to appear. One aspect of the side effects are due to the destruction of the adult worms and the resulting blood vessel blockage and inflammation.

 

No matter what adulticide is used, it is very important to keep your dog very quiet and follow all of your doctor’s instructions. If you have any doubt about what to do or what is going on, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian ASAP.

 

As the inflammation peaks after adulticide treatment at 5-10 days, sometimes anti-inflammatory medications are used. However, some anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the effectiveness of the adulticide, so a veterinarian will recommend when it is best to use the anti-inflammatory medication, if at all. Some patients even require a second set of adulticide treatments since the very immature L5 heartworms and young female adults are more resistant to the treatment.

 

After the adulticide treatment and its side effects are resolved (usually at about 1 month post treatment), the microfilaria are then eliminated with one or another of two common heartworm preventives, Ivermectin or Mibemycin oxime. This will be done approximately one month after the adulticide treatment, depending on your veterinarian’s final decision regarding when it can be done.

 

Approximately four months after adulticide therapy, the dogs are retested for the presence of heartworm(s). This will determine if a second treatment is needed.

 

Heartworm Prevention in Dogs

 

It is much simpler to prevent heartworm disease from occuring than treating it afterward. The most common preventatives on the market kill the immature heartworm larvae before they molt to the L5 stage. As long as they are given to the dog every month (or according to the medication instructions), they are very effective in preventing heartworm infection and subsequent development of heartworm disease.

 

The choice of which preventative to use will be determined by a discussion with your veterinarian and what is best for your pet. Ideally puppies are started on monthly heartworm preventatives by 8 weeks of age. They should have a heartworm blood test at around 7 months of age and then be retested on an annual basis or according to the veterinarian’s recommendations.

 

The latest recommendation by the American Heartworm Society is once every 2-3 years in dogs that NEVER miss a dose of preventative. Any missed preventative doses should be communicated to your veterinarian and re-testing should be scheduled accordingly.

 

 

 

Saved by the Vet!!

Don’t let this happen to you and your dog:
How the Doctor Almost Killed Her Dog
By RANDI HUTTER EPSTEIN, M.D.

The week before Christmas, I nearly killed my German shepherd.
Dexter with Ellie. Dexter in Central Park.

His name is Dexter, and he’s 11 years old. It all began on a Saturday morning in Central Park, when he ran in playful pursuit after a young Labrador retriever. Afterward he limped home.

Yet again his arthritic leg was acting up — he also tore a ligament a few years ago — and in an effort to save money and a trip to the veterinarian, I gave him some high-dose ibuprofen. It was in the medicine cabinet, left over from my son’s root canal.

I am a doctor — a people one — so I know quite a bit about medicine. Little did I know how little I knew about veterinary medicine.

Over the course of about a day and half, I had given Dexter three 600-milligram pills. He stopped limping, but also stopped eating, and for the first time in his life, he wet himself during the night. He then flooded the hallway with urine as he ran for the door in the morning.

That’s when I called the veterinarian’s office. It was Sunday, and I left a message saying that it wasn’t an emergency, but perhaps Dexter should be seen on Monday.

The phone rang immediately. It was my veterinarian. She told me to get Dexter to an animal hospital. Right away.

That’s when I learned that ibuprofen, the key ingredient in Motrin, poisons dogs. After a seven-day stay in the intensive care unit, ultrasound exams and a big bottle of take-home medicine, I brought Dexter home, along with a $3,000 vet bill.

My kids could not believe that I had given the family dog medicine made for humans. My 14-year-old son had the gall to make fun of me in front of his friends. “My dog was in the hospital. My mom almost killed him. Can you believe she gave him people medicine?”

But my dogs have had a long — and happier — history of human-drug therapy, all veterinarian-approved. Dexter also takes glucosamine, a supplement for arthritic joints that my mother swears by. He takes levothyroid for his slow-acting thyroid gland, precisely the same thing people take. And when he has digestive issues, which is fairly frequently, I reach for the Pepcid and Imodium, an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine.

When my previous dog, a golden retriever, had lymphoma years ago, he was treated with the same chemotherapy regime given to human cancer patients.

And to be honest, I had never worried too much, because I thought so many of the pet dangers we hear about are exaggerated. Take chocolate: They say it kills dogs, but my dogs have always scarfed down the chocolate crumbs my kids have dropped without consequences.

Dr. Safdar Khan, senior director of toxicology research at the A.S.P.C.A. Animal Poison Control Center, which runs a 24-hour hot line for pet owners (1-888-426-4435; fees apply), urged pet owners, “You must, must check with your vet” before giving pets human medicines. Imodium, for example, can mask underlying causes of diarrhea, like parasites. And drugs like Pepto Bismol contain aspirin, he said, which can irritate a dog’s digestive tract and cause severe damage to cats.

But ibuprofen “is a double whammy,” said Dr. Amy Attas, my vet and founder of City Pets, a veterinary house call service. It can cause ulcers and bleeding in the intestinal tract and damage the kidneys. High doses can cause fatal renal failure.

There are many other canine poisons in the medicine cabinet as well. Acetaminophen, the key ingredient in Tylenol, is toxic to dogs and cats because the liver enzyme responsible for its breakdown works differently in cats and dogs than it does in people. One dose can kill a cat.

And as for chocolate, a few chocolate bits or a chocolate chip cookie is not going to kill your dog, Dr. Attas said. But lots of dark chocolate, the kind often used in baking, can be deadly. It has a caffeinelike ingredient that damages the canine central nervous system.

Other foods to avoid: grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure. A lot of onions — say, if a dog gets into the garbage and eats the onion-covered chicken — can prompt anemia, which can be fatal. And macadamia nuts can cause muscle tremors, weakness, vomiting and dangerously high body temperatures.

The worst, Dr. Attas said, are artificial sweeteners. Xylitol, the ingredient in most sugar-free gums, causes sugar levels to plummet in dogs, and may damage their livers too. In a paper in the Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association, researchers reported the death of four of eight dogs that had eaten xylitol-laden desserts.

Dr. Attas also warned that Easter lilies are poisonous to cats.

So what do you give a dog when joint pain flares up?

Your veterinarian may recommend a medicine called Rimadyl, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatoy drug that works in dogs but, wouldn’t you know, is toxic for people.

As for Dexter, it’s been about a month and he’s on the mend. He’s still on antibiotics twice a day and needs to be walked about every three hours.

The bottom line is that while your domesticated pets may act like small children and your children may, at times, act like wild animals, when it comes to health care, they should always be considered different species.

In other words, don’t do what I did. Call your vet before you experiment with your pets. You could spare yourself a medical crisis – and a hefty bill.

Dangers of Xylitol

I am going to reprint an article that I found here about the dangers of Xylitol, which is a sugar-alcohol based sweetener.

Dec 14, 2010
The Dangers of Xylitol
Most everyone knows that chocolate should be kept out of reach of pets.
There is a new threat to be concerned about.

The new types of artificial sweeteners contain ingredients even more dangerous than chocolate.

The main culprit is the artificial sweetener, Xylitol. Xylitol is found in gums like Orbit.

What makes this ingredient dangerous is that, although the human body can metabolize these complex molecules, the canine body is unable to do so. Also, it seems that once they contact Xylitol in particular, it tastes so sweet that they find it literally irresistible.

The complex unmetabolizable molecule is actually a sugar alcohol, and not a true sugar. Due to its inability to be broken down like normal sugars by the liver and pancreas in the canine body, therefore falls to the kidneys to filter it out like other unprocessable substances. However, the action of the kidneys is not enough to prevent the level of Xylitol in the blood from reaching a critical level. The animal will then experience an overdose, even from a single piece of gum. The net effect of all this leads to a Grand Mals type seizure within 24 hours of ingestion.

The animal may experience as many as 3 more seizures within a 24 hr. period. These symptoms are caused by an apparent acute onset of hypoglycemia, which causes lack of coordination, collapsing and seizure. If your pet ingests a product with Xylitol, please head straight to the nearest ER Clinic!

An Article from ASPCA:

Dog owners beware: The number of dogs harmed from ingesting xylitol, a sugar substitute used in sugar-free chewing gum, toothpaste and baked goods, is on the rise, according to a recent report from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center.

In 2003, the ASPCA recorded only three xylitol poisonings, which can cause hypoglycemia, liver failure and even death in dogs. That number skyrocketed to 70 in 2004. In 2005, there were more than 170 cases, and between January and August 2006, there have already been 114 cases reported.

Signs that your dog might have ingested products containing xylitol as a sweetener can show up quickly, sometimes within 30 minutes of eating the product. According to Dr. Eric Dunayer, a veterinarian and toxicologist for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, dogs that have ingested small amounts of xylitol might be affected but not show signs until up to 12 hours afterward. Signs your dog has ingested a product containing xylitol as a sweetener include an abrupt drop in blood sugar, vomiting, depression, loss of coordination and seizures.

If you find that your dog has consumed a product containing xylitol as a sweetener, call your veterinarian immediately. If the dog is exhibiting symptoms, take the dog to the vet’s office right away.

To prevent xylitol poisoning, dog owners should be aware of products that often contain xylitol as a sweetener, and keep those products out of reach of their dogs. They include: candy, chewing gum, breath fresheners, smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gum, toothpastes, sunscreen and some vitamins and diet supplements.

Thanks to: VETEK CHIC ON WHEELS: The Dangers of Xylitol

Some have asked me…

Why do I volunteer to answer questions for people about their pets and not get paid for it? Well, aside from the fact that not everything in life is about money, I think I can answer this question by showing you some of the feedback I get from these people who I have never met.

I get asked a lot of different questions-from “Why is my dog starting at the bottom of my rose bushes to I just lost my dog to cancer and I am feeling so guilty because…” I get asked the hardest question of all many times- “when is it time to say goodbye to my beloved pet or how will I know when it’s time?”

I have cried tears over some of these questions, some of the way people have thanked me and sometimes over the injustice that is done to cats and dogs all over the world. Some times by the owners themselves, sometimes by cruel people and sometimes just by life itself.

Here is a sampling of what makes me keep doing this:
“Comment – I am in awe with this volunteer. I did not know that there are people out there still willing to help total a total stranger. I would like to comment on how knowledgeable and caring and quick Jana is. I know now what I am doing wrong with potty training. I am so happy with this site.”

“Comment – Jana, thanks again for your help. This site needs you as you as so knowlegible and helpful! Know that your help has surely made a difference. We appreciate you and will keep you posted!”

“Comment – help me alot mostly to calm my feelings reassured well” (Her kitten died)

“Comment – Clearly Jana knows her stuff – her suggestion about possible mild pancreatitis due to eating fat was spot on even though not included in the question posed. Her suggestion on keeping a log will help to track the lizard link if there is one. Many thnx”

“Comment – I really appreciate your quick response,i will try that Hills food for my dog, you sound like you really know what your talking about, i have been on so many sites it would make your head spin! Again, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! i will let you know how it goes…”

“Comment – omg, you answered almost word-for-word what I was thinking! “Poor Boy” is what I call him each time this happens – and before contacting you this morning, I was actually surfing the net looking for a new vet.

I have tried the pumpkin and the capsule in his food – and he looks at me like I am trying to poison him. (and refuses to eat) I guess I would rather torture him once every two/three months by getting those glands squeezed, rather than torture him each and every day over his food.

Thank you again for your prompt and CARING answer! You have reconfirmed everything I was thinking…”

“Comment – Thank you So much! Not only did you answer my question directly, I felt that you really cared about my concern for my dog. Again, thank you very much.”

“Comment – Thank you, Jana, for your directness and your kind words. Unfortunately, you confirmed our fears. She has lived a long life and given us limitless love, and we will be sure she is as comfortable as possible if the time comes. Thank you again, and best wishes.”

“Comment – Thank you so much. I have asked vets for this kind of advice and have never gotten such a thorough response. I can’t wait to try this out. I will follow-up with you and let you and everyone else know how it is going!”

“Comment – It is obvious that Jana has a strong love for pets and a high desire to keep them healthy. Jana provided me with honest, great quality information that help to direct me with the care of my sick dog. Most important, Jana gave me the knowledge and confidence I need to pursue treatment. Thank you”

“Comment – Thank you very much for your empathy and comforting answer. I miss him terribly, but I take comfort in knowing that he went quickly and hopefully without much pain. Thank you again. Take care.”

“Comment – Jana’s passion for animals cam clearly be seen in the fantastic response provided. The answer was more than I could’ve expected. Thank you very much and I will keep in touch.”

That is just a few of the ones I have. It is a wonderful feeling knowing you helped some pet be healthier, or live longer, or even comforted someone who just lost their best friend.

It’s hard to lose a pet and have others around you not understand why you are grieving. I know, I have been through it before. So the questions I get about animals that have died are hit even closer to home for me.

So the next time some one asks me, “why do you do what you do..” I think about the comments that I get from the people that write to me and I know in my heart why I do what I do….

Time marches on…

I have sad news to report-I had to put down my 15 yr old cat Crouton on May 16th. She was dying of kidney failure, a much to common affliction of older cats. If a cat older than 11 doesn’t die of old age, then cancer or kidney failure will get them in the end. No one seems to know why cats suffer from this more than dogs do.

But suffer they do. There has been much speculation over protein levels, types of proteins, raw (as in mice and such) vs. commercials diets, but there is no conclusive evidence.
I can say this from a personal viewpoint based on the last 28 yrs of experience- my pets live much longer than the average pets do and I feed them all exclusively Hill’s brand products. My dog eats prescription diet W/D which is used for dogs with colitis (which she doesn’t have) and general weight control. My dog is a lean 51 lbs- two lbs more than she weighed at one year old. That is the ideal weight. She is 11 but runs and acts like she is 6. Today, however, she is very depressed as I am. She picked up on my sorrow at 7 am this morning and hasn’t been the same all day. But she will be fine. (that was written on May 16th).

My other cat Floyd, lived to be 19 yrs and one month and he lived on K/D which is a prescription kidney diet that I started him on at 10 yrs old to stave off any kidney failure. While ultimately his kidneys did stop functioning, at 19 it’s hard to argue with the fact the food had to have helped him live a long life. Crouton was 15 and healthy until one week ago. Cameo, my beloved dog that I lost in 2005, lived to be almost 16 and she was a fairly large dog. She also came to me at 5 yrs of age loaded with heartworms and had never had a vaccination. Even after two rounds of brutal treatment to kill the heartworms, she still outlived her breed norm.

That leaves me with Zinnia, or Zinny as we call her, my daughter’s 7 yr old cat. She eats Active Longevity food by Science Diet. So did Crouton. It was so close in composition to K/D that I opted for the lesser in cost bag.

On another note…

I took my dog in a week ago to be looked at because I found her UNDER my daughters bed and she is WAY to big to get under a bed. Watching her claw her way out from under the bed just floored me that she was under there at all. The vet thought she had some back pain but she had gotten that from crawling under and out from the bed.

Now when a dog or cat hides under a bed I immediately think that something is wrong. Turned out she was freaking out over a lightening and thunder storm that was many miles from me but she could still hear it. As soon as the weather cleared up (that night) she was fine.

So I will close with this reminder to keep an eye on your dogs during these storms. I have known of German Shepherds going straight through plate glass windows during a storm because they were so stressed over the noise and thunder. If you have a pet that is really anxious during these times, it is much safer for the pet to sedate them at home and keep them in a quiet bedroom, then it is to keep them ‘drug free’ and have them injure themselves over this.
Talk to you vet beforehand about getting and keeping some sedatives on had at home for this very situation.

Until we meet again, have a great now! Please feel free to ask any questions and leave comments.

Crouton 2008

Rest in peace my beautiful Crouton

What is a Vet Tech anyway?

What exactly is a Vet Tech? I have heard this asked many times and I am not sure that the question is ever answered out there in the general public.

Most people do not know what a Vet Tech is or what we do. But if you ever take your pet into a veterinary clinic and had some one come into the exam room and take your pet’s temperature, look over their gum color, weighs them and do a cursory exam, then you have probably just met the Vet Tech at that hospital.

Now in many hospitals, and unfortunately in many of them here in my county, there are not enough licensed technicians to work and so the ‘kennel help’ is trained to do these things by the vet or another team member in the back room. Can they do the job correctly? Sometimes. Is it legal for them to do the job of a licensed technician? In a word, no.
Continue Reading »

Hello all you pet lovers!

Hello everyone!

This will be my newest blog about Pet Care. I am a Registered Veterinary Technician and I practiced for over 35 yrs total. I was forced to retire in 2000 from a serious back injury sustained on the job but I am still licensed and keep current in all aspects of veterinary medicine.

So what’s this blog about? It’s about tips and ideas for pet care. It’s about columns I will write about topics that I am passionate about- how to properly care for your furry house-mates and friends.

I want feedback from you- I want your ideas. I can give you advice about problems your pet may be having but I will not diagnose something for you- only a licensed vet can do that. With that in mind you will hear me tell you to go straightaway to the vet’s many times.

Any advice given in here is not a substitute for veterinary care and must be taken as is for that reason. YOU are responsible for your pet’s health- don’t skimp on it. In this day of economic crunches and crisis we are seeing an alarming rate of pet abandonment. Horses being abandoned and left to die or taken to shelters is up over 300% alone! Shelters are being flooded with pets being relinquished by well-meaning owners that have lost jobs, houses, families.

Most of these animals could have stayed with their families with some forethought and sometimes some help. It is a very sad situation indeed.

I advocate and stress shelter adoptions!! If you are breeding a mutt then you are being very irresponsible and I will let you know that. Some people reading this blog might get mad at me as animals bring out a lot of emotions in people.

Either way, I will be telling it the way it is! So send me some questions or ask about whatever it is you want to know about your pet and I will attempt to give you an answer that you can use, BUT DO NOT USE THIS SITE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR TAKING YOUR PET IN TO SEE A VET WHEN IT IS SICK!! I DO NOT CHECK THIS BLOG DAILY AND IF YOU WAIT FOR AN ANSWER FROM ME WHILE YOUR PET IS SICK YOU COULD BE RISKING THEIR LIFE!! I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH.

CALL YOUR VET IF YOUR PET IS SICK!!

So join me now and then for a lot of information and some laughs too.

Take care and until then have a great now!

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