Archive for March, 2012

The Food and Drug Administration requires that all animal foods, the same as food for human consumption, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances and be labeled truthfully. For any pet food product to have the words “complete” and/or “balanced” printed anyplace on the package the claim must have been validate by meeting the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards based on the product’s recipe or by laboratory analysis. If the product passes this test there will usually be a statement to that effect: “(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles”. This means the product can be fed to a dog as its sole ration, along with free access to water. Another, more rigorous verification uses the previous AAFCO profile but also has been verified by feeding trials. If a product has achieved this standard it will carry a statement to the effect: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition”. A Good resource to check for brands that meet these standards or have been recalled for a problem is: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com.

Dietary protein contains 10 specific amino acids known as essential amino acids because the dog cannot produce them, they must be supplied in the diet. The essential amino acids provide building blocks for many important biologically active compounds and proteins. They also donate carbon chains needed to make glucose for energy. High-quality proteins have a good balance of all of the essential amino acids, “meat products” not so much. Dogs will usually avoid food that lacks even a single essential amino acid.

Dogs are also unable to synthesize essential fatty acids. Animal fats and the seed oils of various plants, provide the most concentrated source of energy in the diet and supply essential fatty acids. They also serve as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins. Fatty acids are needed for healthy cell structure and function. As in our own diet, fats enhance the taste and texture of the food. Butter makes most anything taste better. The essential fatty acids also maintain healthy skin and hair coat. Deficiencies in the “omega-3” family of essential fatty acids have been associated with vision problems and impaired learning ability. Maybe that dog that won’t come when he’s called is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, NOT.

All pet food labels must state guarantees for the minimum percentages of crude (refers to the method used to test the product, not the quality) protein and crude fat, as well as the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. The label should also provide the percentage of the daily requirements for vitamins and minerals provided.

Dogs get some of their energy from carbohydrates; sugars, starches, and dietary fibers. The major sources of carbohydrates in commercial dog foods are cereals, legumes, and other plant sources. Absorbable carbohydrates like, glucose and fructose are directly absorbed they do not need to be digested by enzymes. Enzymes in the dog’s intestinal tract break down digestible carbohydrates before they can be absorbed. Certain starches and dietary fibers are classified as fermentable carbohydrates. They pass undigested through the small intestine to the colon, where microbes ferment them into short-chain fatty acids and gases. There are studies that suggest that fermentable fibers may aid in the regulation of blood glucose concentrations and enhance immune function. Non-fermentable fibers, such as cellulose and wheat bran, contribute almost nothing for energy or nutrition. Fermentable carbohydrates may be used to decrease the caloric intake of overweight animals.

Puppies need increased protein and calories for growth. Very active working dogs, such as sled dogs, require large amounts of protein and calories to remain fit. Decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism in older dogs mean they need as much as 20% fewer total calories than do middle-aged adult dogs. If the dog gets too fat, disrupted carbohydrate metabolism can lead to diabetes.

Common types of commercial dog foods are dry, semi-moist, or canned. The moisture content of these foods ranges from 6 to 10 % for dry, 15 to 30% for semi-moist, and 75% for canned. Most canned food has relatively more fat and protein and fewer carbohydrates than do dry and semi-moist food, and generally contain higher levels of animal origin protein. When reading labels, it is important to pay close attention to the percentages of the five top ingredients.

As always, if you have questions about your pet’s specific requirements consult your veterinarian.

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Tumors of the skin are probably the most common tumors seen in dogs and can be of many different types. Those that originate in the epithelium, the outermost layer of the skin, include papillomas (warts), cornifying epitheliomas found within the layers of skin, various forms of follicle cell tumors, tumors of the sebaceous glands, tumors of the sweat glands, hepatoid gland tumors also known as perianal tumors, anal sac tumors, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell tumors. We also encounter soft-tissue sarcomas, and various round cell tumors including plasmacytomas, mast cell tumors, lymphoma, histiocytoma and transmissible venereal tumors. Dogs can also develop melanomas, either malignant or benign.

Papillomas (warts) are benign, found on the surface of the skin or mucous membranes and caused by viruses that seem to target specific areas of the skin, the eyelids, in the genital region, on lips, gums, tongue, palate and throat. They may appear singly or in large numbers. They are most common in young dogs or older dogs with decreased immunity.

Dogs can get several different types of tumors associated with sebaceous glands (glands that secrete a lubricating substance). These are usually benign masses, solitary or multiple, raised and firm, and can be pink, yellowish or darkly pigmented. They can be oily, ulcerated and frequently the hair is gone around them. They are most commonly found on the belly, but can be anywhere on the animal. Sebaceous gland adenocarcinomas are malignant tumors and much less common in dogs. They usually are found in older dogs and appear similar to the benign form. A trained pathologist must make the determination of benign or malignant.

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors, usually found in the tissues just under the skin (subcutaneous). They are very common in middle-aged and older dogs, especially if the dog is a little overweight. They are usually well circumscribed, soft to firm to the feel and move easily within the tissue. Surgical removal should be considered if the lesion is cosmetically troubling or if it is growing rapidly or interfering with the dogs ability to move about. Sometimes lipomas infiltrate into underlying tissues, get these removed as soon as possible.

Mast cell tumors are malignant, invade surrounding tissues and difficult to treat successfully. They account for a little more than twenty percent of all canine skin tumors diagnosed. They are on the skin or in the subcutaneous tissues. They can be bumpy or smooth, easy or difficult to palpate the limits or edges, soft or firm, ulcerated or free of hair, red or dark and either singly or in multiple locations. They are found more commonly in older dogs who may show signs of metastasis and excessive histamine release resulting in gastrointestinal distress, bleeding, delayed wound healing and, in final stages, shock. Most common sites of metastasis are lymph nodes, spleen, liver and bone marrow.

If you pet has any suspicious lumps or bumps get it to your veterinarian as soon as you can. If the lesion is malignant, early detection is the key to successful treatment.

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This is a condition seen most commonly in tall, long necked horses and large breeds of dogs, particularly Great Danes and Dobermans. The disease is characterized by an abnormal gait in the front and/or the hind legs. The animal seems to “wobble” when walking or exercising. Some animals seem to have a stiff neck, may appear to be weak or lazy, that is reluctant to move, stumble more than normal or seem to misstep. There may be a generalized unsteadiness, hindquarter weakness or knuckling over in the lower leg joints, particularly in the hind limbs.

The term is frequently applied to several different abnormalities resulting in ataxia, defined as a proprioceptive deficit (loss of sense of where the animal places his or her feet). In advanced cases, the animal may fall as it struggles to ambulate. In horses, it includes a specific condition known as Equine wobbles anemia. There is considerable controversy about the potential genetic nature of Equine wobbles anemia. Other specific conditions that can result in the same set of signs include at least three different malformations of the cervical (neck) vertebrae; protrusion of an intervertebral disc, disease of the interspinal ligaments or of the articular facets (the joints) of the vertebrae in the neck. Other names for this condition are; cervical vertebral instability, cervical spondylomyelopathy and cervical vertebral malformation. The condition can also be the result of a brain lesion.

The most common cause in both dogs and horses is spinal cord compression from one of the various cervical vertebral malformations, which, again, may or may not, be inherited. Spinal cord compression can be either dynamic, occurring only when the animal bends or extends its neck, or static, present all the time.

To make a definitive diagnosis your veterinarian will have to do a complete neurological exam and then radiographs (X-rays) of the spinal canal including a contrast study (myelogram). The radiographic studies will have to be conducted with the animal under general anesthetic. While conducting these tests your veterinarian will also rule out the possibility of an infectious agent or a traumatic injury by examining the cerebrospinal fluid.

Some wobblers treated with nutritional and medical management have shown improvement, but the results are not impressive. If the cause is compression of the spinal cord a veterinary surgeon, with the proper training and experience, can decompress the spinal cord and fuse the problem vertebrae, usually by using Titanium baskets and bone marrow transplants. This is similar to the recent surgery done to the professional football quarterback Peyton Manning. It ain’t cheap folks!

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