Many of you may have seen in the news recently that a correlation has been identified between heart disease in dogs and Grain Free diets, or diets with exotic ingredients.
This posting out of Tuft University’s Veterinary School’s Nutrition department best describes the findings to date, symptoms, and concerns.
We have had one confirmed patient at our hospital with dilated cardiomyopathy (in a non at-risk breed). He had a new heart murmur on his yearly physical exam and the cardiologist found that he had a markedly enlarged heart, as well as inadequate blood taurine levels. He was also on a grain free diet.
So what food should you feed if your dog hasn’t been diagnosed with a grain intolerance? Please either do your own research using the below link or ask your veterinarian. Do NOT rely on the people selling the food at the pet store as they usually have no nutrition science or veterinary education at all. We are repeatedly hearing all sorts of misinformation being passed along this way – often contributing to further issues with our patients. The internet is also a terrible resource for food research unless you stick to the guidelines provided by Tufts here.
The foods that our veterinarians trust the most and feed to our own pets are from companies that have done extensive published research on their foods, have tracked life studies of pets fed their foods, produce their own foods in their own facilities (label will say “manufactured by” not “manufactured for”), and rigorously perform quality controls on their foods all the time. Because they are big name companies and major competitors, they are often disparaged by the boutique food companies and the people who sell them.
These companies that we trust and recommend for cats and dogs are Hill’s/Science Diet, Royal Canin, Iams/Eukanuba, and Purina. So, while we love to support the little guys, being one ourself, pet food production is an area where we just don’t think it can be done right without extensive testing, quality control, and life studies which most little companies can’t afford to do.
We are here for you if you have any questions!
Dr. Amy Tongue and team
The quick details about Kennel Cough.
Kennel Cough is one of the more common diseases we see due to the highly sociable nature of our dogs and the contagiousness of this airborne disease. We thought we’d take this opportunity to review the symptoms and what steps to take if you think your dog has kennel cough:
- Kennel Cough is caused by multiple pathogens, but we currently are only able to vaccinate for two of these: the bacteria called Bordetella and the virus Parainfluenza. Testing on the most recent cases we’ve seen have revealed that another bacteria called Mycoplasma is also involved, which is one of the reasons why vaccinated dogs are getting infected.
- The medical term for kennel cough is Infectious Tracheobronchitis because the pathogens usually inhabit and irritate the trachea (windpipe) and upper bronchi, causing a cough.
- Dogs are contagious before they start coughing, while they are coughing, and up to a week or more after they stop coughing, making the disease very challenging, if not impossible, to prevent or control.
- The kennel cough vaccine works like any other vaccine in that it doesn’t completely prevent the pet from getting the disease, but helps reduce the severity of symptoms.
- Except for mild cases which may require no treatment at all, we often treat with antibiotics to prevent a secondary pneumonia and sometimes cough suppressants for severe or continuous coughing.
If you call to schedule a medical appointment for a coughing dog, we will probably ask you to leave your dog in the car and let us know when you get here. This is because Kennel Cough is so contagious that even just walking around our yard or standing in our lobby may infect other dogs. Since the pathogens can be airborne, any pet that walks near where your dog just stood may be at risk for becoming infected, particularly if they are elderly, immunocompromised or very young.
If your dog has been coughing and is scheduled for grooming or boarding, PLEASE call and let us know beforehand rather than just bringing them in. You should also avoid taking them to the dog park or having any contact with other dogs.
We have not yet seen any cases of Canine Influenza in our area, but would take similar precautions. There is no seasonal component to the dog flu like we see with human influenza, and symptoms are similar to that of kennel cough but tend to be more severe and are usually accompanied by fever and nasal and ocular discharge.
Quite a few years back one of my clients asked me this question about her very old dog who was in heart failure and clearly approaching the last years of his life. After giving it some thought, my response was that perhaps this mellow old guy who spent most of his day sleeping would be happiest with just some peace and quiet, supplemented with the devoted attention of his humans. The thought of a little sharp toothed hellion using this sweet old gentleman as a chew toy and trampoline during his final days made me cringe.
Yet, as sometimes happens, my advice was disregarded and the client promptly selected and acquired a new puppy for this little old man. And, as often happens, she was completely right! He LOVED his new little friend, started wrestling and playing chase again, and bonded strongly to her. He spent his last years with her by his side and the two of them were inseparable. In fact, he probably lived a longer, happier life because of her companionship.
So while not every old dog appreciates the life changing presence of a puppy, I now share my story and counsel clients that many older dogs who enjoy interacting with other dogs may really thrive and bond when blessed with a younger companion. They can also be a great example (or not….) to the young pup as to how to behave and interact with humans and other animals, thereby leaving some of their legacy with the next generation.