Taurine, Dog Food, and Heart Disease in Dogs

In July 2018, the FDA released a warning about grain-free dog foods and their possible connection to the development of a heart disease in dogs called DCM. Here are a few things you should know:

  • The FDA’s warning is based on a number of reported cases of dogs that developed DCM whose diet consisted of a grain-free dog food with a large amount of potatoes, legumes, and “exotic” proteins in the ingredients. Vegan and homemade diets were also reportedly involved. This caught FDA’s attention because some of the dogs were not the breeds that commonly develop DCM.
  • Subsequently, the FDA has emphasized that people should “not take intuitive leaps beyond what is explicitly stated in our public notice.” In other words, don’t think that all grain-free diets with legumes or potatoes are problematic. It is primarily a situation confined to relatively few diets and the evidence linking the diets to DCM is far from conclusive and requires additional study.
  • The hypothesis is that the diets in question may potentially provide insufficient levels of the essential amino acid taurine, which would in turn contribute to the development of DCM.
  • Here are the characteristics of the type of diet that would meet the criteria of foods most correlated with DCM in dogs (based on the FDA statement and prior research):
  1. Low in animal protein content.
  2. Containing significant amounts of barley, potatoes, tapioca, peas, lentils, chickpeas, rice/rice bran
  3. Containing a significant amount of “exotic” animal proteins, such as bison, duck, lamb, kangaroo, salmon, and venison.
  • It is important to note that based on the information provided by the FDA it most likely takes a combination of multiple factors to create a situation where taurine may not be sufficient.
  • Many common proteins used in dog food (not “exotic”), such as chicken, turkey, and fish, are generally good sources of taurine.
  • Raw meat and poultry have higher levels of taurine, as the bioavailability of taurine is reduced by heat processing.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that millions of dogs have been fed grain-free diets for many years with no adverse health consequences, and the FDA warning is based on observations from a comparatively small sample of cases. If you have additional questions about the issue, please consult with your veterinarian.

Additional Resources:

Taurine, Dog Food, and Heart Disease in Dogs by Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian

The Importance of Taurine for Dogs & Cats by Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian

 

Questions About Canine Influenza? Let Dr. Jean, DVM, Help!

Canine Influenza

By Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM, Veterinarian Advisor

Can Dogs Catch the Flu?

Canine flu is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs. It is thought to be a mainly airborne virus, most likely transmitted by an infected dog coughing or sneezing on another. In otherwise healthy dogs, statistics show that the canine flu is a fairly mild disease with most dogs recovering completely in two to three weeks.

The canine influenza virus (CIV), type H3N8, was first noted in greyhounds several years ago, and appeared quite dangerous at the time, with many deaths. However, its deadly effects are attributed to secondary pneumonia that developed due to the unsanitary conditions in which the greyhounds lived and worked.

What is the Difference Between H3N8 and H3N2?

In March 2015, a new outbreak began in Chicago and quickly spread around the Midwest; other areas have also reported cases. This is a different strain, H3N2, that originated in Asia. This form of CIV appears to be generally mild, except in susceptible individuals, including young puppies. This strain is also unusual in that it can affect cats and possibly other animals, though not humans.

What are Canine Influenza Virus Symptoms?

In the vast majority of dogs, CIV produces only mild, self-limiting respiratory signs: coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever, for up to 3 weeks. In some cases, lethargy and poor appetite may develop. Canine flu is similar to kennel cough in that antibiotics do not affect the course of the disease.

The canine flu is highly contagious; and like human flu, it is most contagious during the 2-4 day incubation period before signs of illness appear. Infected dogs continue to shed virus for about 10 days. These traits make prevention difficult.

The most likely places for your dog (or cat) to contract this flu virus are daycare and boarding kennels, dog parks, grooming facilities, pet stores, and veterinary clinics – all places where a lot of animals (especially puppies) pass through, and the chances of spreading the virus are high.

Is There a Vaccine for Canine Influenza Virus

A vaccine against the H3N8 strain of CIV is available. However, again, like human flu vaccines, it neither prevents infection nor prevents symptoms. At best, it may reduce the severity and duration of illness, and it may reduce viral shedding by an infected dog. Because it is a killed vaccine, a 2-shot series is required, with at least 10-14 days between inoculations. Immunity develops slowly; so the vaccine doesn’t really take effect until 3-4 weeks after the first shot. Giving the vaccine after a dog has been exposed to the virus is therefore useless.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The currently available vaccine does not protect against the H3N2 strain that is going around in 2015.

The CIV vaccine is considered non-core, and vaccination is not recommended for most dogs; or for any dogs that may be exposed to the newer, H3N2 strain. Some boarding kennels require vaccination for CIV; however, such requirements are not based on science, but on fear.

How is the Canine Influenza Virus Spread?

CIV spreads through respiratory secretions and contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes), and by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs without using proper precautions.

The virus can remain infectious on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. Good hygiene and isolation of infected dogs will limit, if not eliminate, transmission.

What Dogs Does the Canine Influenza Affect?

CIV, like many other viruses, is most likely to cause serious problems in young puppies, and in older dogs who already have other health issues.

What is the Best Defense Against Canine Influenza?

The best defense against canine flu (or any other infectious disease) is a healthy immune system — that is, one that is supported with top quality nutrition, appropriate supplements (antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids, and other immune supporters), limiting exposure, appropriate exercise, and good stress management.

Let Dr. Jean Help You Discover the Powerful Benefits of Homeopathy, Chinese Herbs and Herbal Care!

With so many natural pet products on the market, it’s hard to navigate through all of their terms and definitions. Thankfully, Only Natural Pet Store’s resident veterinarian Dr. Jean is an expert in both alternative and traditional medicine. Let her help you make the right decisions when it comes to finding the Homeopathic, Chinese Herbs and Herbal Remedies your pet needs to continue living a happy, healthful life.

And as an added bonus, you’ll save 15% on top products from our Homeopathic, Chinese Herbs and Herbal Care categories by using the coupon code HOLISTIC. That means not only will you be educating yourself on healthy pet supplements, but you’ll save on the ones you need. From Traditional Chinese Medicine to Folk Remedies, people and pets have been using herbal and homeopathic products for years. Now is your time to re-discover them for your pet.

15% Alternative Remedy Savings

Stop Your Pet’s Holiday Stress with a Great Deal from Only Natural Pet!

The holidays aren’t just stressful for us; all of the visitors, decorating and hectic days take their toll on our pets as well. But don’t fear…Only Natural Pet Store is here to help! With our “Holiday Stress Reducers and Safety Tips” article, and some advice from Dr. Jean, you’ll have no problems this year. So make sure you check out our November Newsletter and let your pet handle the holidays with grace.

November Newsletter

November Newsletter

Overview of Allergies – Part 3 of a 3 part series by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM


In the first two installments of our 3-part Allergy Series, we’ve covered food allergies and inhalant allergies (atopy). This time, we’ll go into a little more detail about what allergies are, and how to prevent and deal with them; and we’ll reveal the most common allergy of all!

Allergy = Immune Hypersensitivity

An allergy is an over-reaction of the immune system to an allergen (usually a protein). There are four major types of hypersensitivity reaction:

  • Type I or “immediate” hypersensitivity, also known as anaphylaxis. An example is the potentially life-threatening reaction to vaccines in sensitive animals. The type of reaction usually occurs within 30 minutes, but always within 12 hours. The problem usually occurs in tissue that has direct contact with the outside world, such as the skin, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal system. This is the most common type of reaction seen in pets. Food allergies, atopy (inhalant allergies), and fleabite allergy usually fall into this category.
  • Type II or cytotoxic hypersensitivity is what we think of as an autoimmune reaction, where antibodies attach to the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation and tissue destruction. Transfusion reactions and vaccine-induced autoimmune hemolytic anemia are examples. The reaction begins within 3-10 hours.
  • Type III or immune complex hypersensitivity occurs within 3-10 hours of exposure to the allergen. While relatively rare in animals, systemic lupus erythematosis in dogs is an example.
  • Type IV or delayed hypersensitivity is the reaction we commonly think of as a “contact” allergy, such as a reaction to poison ivy. For instance, a dog may develop an allergy to the stuffing in, or the detergent used to wash, his dog bed, and develop a rash on his belly and paws (which have the least amount of fur and are thus in direct contact with the bed). This type of allergy typically takes days to develop, and is relatively uncommon in pets.

Diagnosing allergies

Diagnosing allergies can be difficult. First, your veterinarian needs to rule out other diseases or problems that cause those symptoms. For skin reactions, other causes include parasites, autoimmune disease, and skin infections. Diagnosis may include skin scrapings to look for mites (several species commonly infect dogs and cats); fungal culture for ringworm; or even biopsy to look for skin and gland abnormalities. In the case of gastrointestinal reactions, there are dozens of other potential causes, such as parasites; viral, bacterial, or fungal infections; toxins; liver or pancreas disorders; neurological problems; and cancer. The pet’s history may also provide clues: atopy and fleabite allergy are more seasonal, while food allergies tend to be constant.

There are two major tests specifically for allergies manifesting as skin problems: intradermal skin testing, and blood tests.

  • Intradermal skin testing involves injecting dozens of allergens into the skin to assess the degree of reactivity. The animal must be anesthetized for this process.
  • Blood tests check for antibodies to a variety of allergens.

These tests are not 100% accurate, but they may help narrow down the list of suspects so that treatment can be targeted more efficiently. These tests are best reserved for dogs who will be getting immunotherapy (hyposensitization), which involves giving frequent injections of a combination of allergens in order to minimize the immune system reaction.

Food trials are also a way of diagnosing allergies, since symptoms of food allergy may involve either the skin or the gastrointestinal tract. It is worth keeping in mind that food allergies are far less common than other allergies, but food can still contribute to symptoms. The trial food should contain ingredients the pet has not been exposed to before, and should be fed exclusively for 8-12 weeks! Digestive symptoms typically resolve sooner than skin symptoms.

This “FAD” is the Top Allergy

FAD, or Flea Allergy Dermatitis, is the most common allergy of dogs and cats. The usual suspect is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, which is just as likely to infest dogs as their namesake cats. Fleas inject their saliva as they feed on the pet’s blood; and that saliva contains histamine-like compounds and other proteins. These components make fleabites extremely itchy on their own; but in some animals, they cause an allergy that is itchy to the extreme.

The most typical sites for FAD to show up are the lower back, base of the tail, inner thighs, and lower belly; although a severely allergic pet may be itchy all over.. The fur in affected areas may be stained brown from the pet’s licking, and the skin can become hairless, crusty, thickened, or even blackened from chronic irritation. Hot spots (areas of moist, reddened skin) can also be the result of FAD. Secondary infections of the skin with yeast or bacteria are common.

Most people, confronted with a potentially flea-allergic pet, will adamantly deny that there is a flea problem in their homes—and most of them are probably correct. But you don’t have to see fleas to have a flea problem. Fleas may be lurking in the yard, on the beach, or in the dog park. If your pet has a flea allergy, it only takes a single fleabite to produce a severe and long-lasting reaction.

In addition to causing itching and allergies, fleas can transmit tapeworms, roundworms, and the bacteria that cause bubonic plague, cat scratch disease, typhus, and Lyme disease. Many of these diseases can also be transmitted to humans. It is important to stay vigilant if you are in a flea-prone area.

For more information on fleas and how to combat them naturally, please see these articles:

Common Flea Myths

Click here to read the second article in our allergy series on Inhalant Allergies (Atopy)

Prevent the ‘Oops!’ From Your Pet

Our latest monthly newsletter is hot off the pixel press! This month we have great information about how you can help your dog and/or cat with incontinence, bladder control, and related conditions. Dr. Jean Hofve contributes her usual tips and there are great deals to be had (to the tune of 15% off!) all bladder control and incontinence products through September 1st. Plus view some great pictures from our community on our Flickr feed!

Pet Got The Leaks?!

Check Out Our New Monthly Newsletter Packed with Articles, Links, New Products, and More!

We hope you enjoy this new approach to our already awesome email newsletters! The last Friday of each month we’ll send out a special monthly newsletter jam-packed with articles, interesting news and tips from Dr. Jean Hofve, great photos of dogs and cats submitted by our customers, detailed new product announcements, and much more!

We appreciate your support and hope you will share this with your friends, family, and pet loving friends!

http://ebm.onlynaturalpet.info/c/tag/BN39iWB7gMUhB8baaXAAAAAF-M/doc.html?t_params=CLICK_CODE%3D74046%26FNAME%3DValued%2520Customer%26i_buyergroup%3D0%26i_header%3D0

Spring May Bring Danger to Your Pets!

Don’t you just love Spring, with its mild weather, green grass, and flowers everywhere?

But some of the things we associate with this happy season can be harmful to pets and wildlife.

Bulb plants are a particular problem, and nearly all of them are toxic. To your dog, a bulb may resemble a well-worn ball that is irresistible to pick up in his mouth.

In some plants, only the bulb is a problem, and mainly causes irritation in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Typical signs are drooling, vomiting, abdominal pain, or in severe cases, respiratory or cardiac abnormalities.

But, with lilies including Easter Lilies, every part of the plant is toxic, especially to cats. A cat can be fatally poisoned simply by licking lily pollen off its fur, or taking a tiny nibble of a leaf or flower.

Toxic bulbs include:

  • Lilies, including Tiger lilies, Day lilies, Easter lilies, and Stargazer lilies (any plant of the Lilium and Hermerocallis genera. Calla lilies and Peace lilies are not true lilies, though they can still cause significant irritation.)
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Tulips (Tulipa)
  • Hyacinth (Hyacinthus)
  • Daffodils (Narcissus)
  • Crocuses (including fall-blooming Colchicum autumnale and more common spring crocuses, which are in the Iris [Iridaceae] group)
  • Irises (Iridaceae)
  • Amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna)
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)
  • Trillium (Trillium)

If you have bulbs planted in your garden, or if you bring a plant or bouquet indoors, be extremely cautious. For garden plants, you may want to consider fencing to keep dogs (and other critters) out. Indoor plants need to be secured well away from pets. Many cats have been poisoned by chewing on plants that a guardian was absolutely sure they couldn’t get to! (For a more complete list of poisonous and dangerous plants, click here.)

There are other spring dangers that we need to be aware of, such as fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and other chemicals commonly used in gardens. Even blood meal and bone meal can cause problems if the dog eats too much–as dogs often do! Cocoa mulch is another culprit, although it is unusual for a dog to consume enough to be poisonous (the toxin, theobromine, is the same chemical that’s in chocolate). So keep your yard safe: be sure to lock up all garden products and tools when you’re through using them!

Between knowledge and common sense, we can prevent many tragedies, and keep Spring a happy season!

Wellness Canned Cat Food Recall

Wellness has announced a recall of its canned cat food:

Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30SEP13;
Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with 10NOV13 or 17NOV13 best buy dates. [Update: Canned kitten food should have been included in this recall]

The manufacturer, WellPet, deserves credit for going out of its way to personally contact bloggers (including myself and Susan Thixton of the awesome blog, TruthAboutPetFood.com) to help get the word out to consumers as quickly as possible.

Only one case of illness in a cat is known to have been reported, and WellPet’s rapid and complete response is impressive. [Update 4/4/11 – WellPet did make a few mistakes…they originally did not include their kitten food in the recall, which was affected; and they did not notify all their retailers in a timely manner.]

The following letter is from WellPet’s CEO:

Dear Pet Parents,

My name is Tim Callahan, and I’m the CEO of WellPet, makers of Wellness® natural pet food. Over the years, we at WellPet have worked hard to earn the reputation of being a company that does everything possible for the pets that depend on us.

WellPet is committed to delivering the very best in pet food nutrition, as nothing is more important than the well-being of our dogs and cats. So when we found through product quality testing that specific product runs of our Wellness canned cat food might contain less than adequate levels of thiamine (also known as Vitamin B1), we decided to voluntarily recall them.

Please know, the vast majority of products tested had the appropriate levels of thiamine; however, with the number of recipes we offer, we did not want to make this more confusing. Therefore to avoid confusion and in an abundance of caution, we have decided to recall all canned cat products with the specific date codes noted below. Cats fed only product with inadequate levels of thiamine for several weeks may be at risk for developing a thiamine deficiency. If treated promptly, thiamine deficiency is typically reversible.

Though the chance of developing this deficiency is remote, withdrawing these products is the right thing to do and we are removing it from retailers’ shelves.

The lots involved in this voluntary recall are:

Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30SEP13;
Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with best by date of 10NOV13 and 17NOV13.

If you have cat food from these lots, you should stop feeding it to your cats. You may call WellPet at 1-877-227-9587 to arrange for return of the product and reimbursement. For further information, please visit our website at http://www.wellnesspetfood.com.

No other Wellness products that your pets currently enjoy are impacted, so you can continue to feed your pets Wellness with full confidence. This is an isolated situation, as we have had only one reported issue. We are taking all the necessary steps to ensure it does not happen again.

Speaking on behalf of our entire Company, I apologize for any concerns this may have caused you. As a parent of a yellow lab named Hope, I understand the sense of responsibility we all share for our dogs and cats. Rest assured, product quality and safety will always be our top priority.

Sincerely,

Tim Callahan

Preventing Cancer in Pets: A Holistic Perspective by Dr. Jean Hofve

This year, cancer will kill half of dogs over 10 years old. This devastating disease is increasingly seen in cats, and in younger pets as well. 

Because cancer is so mysterious and seemingly powerful in its ability to destroy health and deplete us emotionally (and financially), it is easy to become overwhelmed, and to take a fatalistic attitude. We know so little, and cancer seems to strike our pets and us almost randomly; we may think, “What’s the point of trying to do anything about it?” However, there are simple, practical steps you can take that will greatly reduce your pet’s risk of cancer.

What causes cancer?

In most cases, cancer is not caused by any single factor (the exceptions are cancers directly caused by vaccination, such as vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats and, to a lesser extent, dogs and ferrets). Factors such as age, genetics, exposure to toxic carcinogens, lifestyle, infections, and stress may all play a role in the development of cancer in pets. Cancer develops when abnormal (mutated) cells begin to reproduce in the body at alarming rates, and begin to interfere with the normal functioning of healthy cells, organs, or body tissues. Our pets’ bodies produce so many cells every day that large numbers of abnormal cells are created all the time. In a healthy body, the immune system scavenges and destroys these abnormal cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, tumors develop when this immune surveillance breaks down or is overwhelmed. It is overly simplistic to state that cancer is always and only due to immune system failure, but the immune system is certainly always involved.

The immune system plays many roles in both cancer prevention and cancer development. Surveillance for and destruction of abnormal and damaged cells is one such role. Another—and perhaps the most important—is inflammation. While acute inflammation is one of the body’s major defense mechanisms, chronic inflammation is now thought to be at the root of many diseases of aging, and other conditions that are associated with cancer.

The bottom line is this: the best defense against cancer is a balanced, healthy immune system—one that responds appropriately (not too little, not too much) and cleans up after itself (once the problem/inflammation is resolved). Therefore, supporting a properly functioning immune is the single most important thing you can do to minimize your pet’s cancer risk.

How the immune system becomes unbalanced:

The immune system is negatively affected by many factors:

  • Genetics: The genetic make-up of the animal greatly influences the stability and power of the immune system. Purebred pets from sources where the bloodlines are not well controlled (such as puppy mills, backyard breeders, pet stores, and auctions), are typically more susceptible to disease and immune dysfunction,
  • Age: immune function naturally declines as our animals get older
  • Poor nutrition: most commercial pet foods contain many additives and preservatives
  • Toxic exposure: our pets are constantly exposed to multiple toxins in food, air, and water
  • Infection: some bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases directly impact how the immune system functions
  • Medications: many drugs, such as steroids and certain antibiotics, suppress the immune system
  • Vaccination (for more information, see our article on vaccination)
  • Extreme weather: expect this to worsen from both natural and man-made factors
  • Electromagnetic fields: these emanate from the sun as well as man-made sources (cell phone towers, power lines, electric lights, microwaves, and even the wiring in our homes
  • Sedentary lifestyle: exercise is a natural stress reducer and immune booster
  • Inadequate rest: 24/7 exposure to light and noise can disrupt sleep patterns
  • Stress of all kinds: including emotional, social, mental, and territorial stress. Pets can not only be subject to their own stress, but they readily absorb stress from human family members.

Some of these factors are within our control; but many are not. We can’t slow down the passage of time, alter the weather, or escape from solar and man-made radiation, but we can make many important changes to improve our pets’ (and our own) immune systems and reduce cancer risk.

Supporting the immune system:

Here are some positive, proactive steps you can take to support your pet’s immune system, decrease stress, and reduce chronic inflammation:

  • Provide a natural diet with as many fresh, raw, whole foods as possible.
  • Give your pet antioxidants, Omega-3 (EPA an DHA), and other supplements to support immune function, decrease inflammation, and promote cellular health.
  • Offer only purified, filtered water – tap water always contains chemicals, and bottled water commonly contains leached toxic plastic compounds.
  • Eliminate chemical toxins used in and around your home; choose non-toxic, green cleaning products, and avoid artificial scents such as candles, carpet powders, and air fresheners.
  • Do not smoke – especially around pets (and children!). If you must smoke, go outside!
  • Don’t over-vaccinate, and never vaccinate a sick animal.
  • Keep pets off and away from televisions and computers.
  • Reduce your pet’s exposure to toxins like fertilizers & pesticides
  • Avoid chemical flea & tick products and use natural insect control products instead.
  • Reduce emotional stress for your pet and yourself with flower essences, massage, homeopathy, and other energy therapies.
  • Exercise and play with your cat or dog every day.

If you already know a little bit about holistic pet care, these steps will be familiar to you, but really understanding that they can help reduce the risk of cancer will help reinforce their benefits in your mind and—we hope—motivate and encourage you to implement them for your pet’s health.

If you are interested in more information on cancer and immune support, click here for related articles in our Holistic Healthcare Library.