Saturday, June 29, 2019

Dilated Cardiomyopathy update after FDA update on 6/27/19

For anyone who has not read the June 27th update from the FDA on the dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) issue potentially related to dog food, here it is (along with the Vet-LIRN update from FDA):
Now, I am currently feeding Owen Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Chicken and Brown Rice dry food, which doesn't have any pea ingredients until 10th on the list or lower (and below grains and animal proteins). I also use some wet foods as toppers and I AVOID peas/lentils/legumes in them.
I read the entire report from FDA and even read all the reports that were submitted to FDA. I am honestly not completely sure what to make of the whole situation. There are reports of somewhere around 560 dogs (probably higher now but we don't know how much higher) that have DCM apparently linked to diet. However, as FDA says, there are over 77 million pet dogs in the U.S. so that is not a high percentage with DCM. There is the possibility, however, that there are many more affected that are not diagnosed because of the expense of diagnostic tests and/or owner lack-of-knowledge about the condition.
I am still of the opinion that this is a nutrient deficiency or a toxicity related to something in the food. I am not of the opinion that dogs NEED grains, because that simply doesn't make any sense from a biology perspective. I do think that we, as pet owners, should probably avoid foods that have peas/a lot of peas until we know more about the cause (which FDA still hasn't found). Based on the information that FDA provided, I do not believe potatoes are an issue at all.
I still find it very odd and interesting/telling that cats are not really affected by this (there have been a VERY few cases but not significant at all). I believe that this fact suggests that it is a nutrient deficiency related to an amino acid that is either not in sufficient quantities in the food or not being absorbed for some reason. The reason I think it may be an amino acid deficiency is that cat foods are nearly all supplemented with more amino acids than dog food is because cats have a very high requirement.
If you read the necropsy reports from FDA, they found fat accumulation around the heart of many of the affected dogs. This makes ME wonder/speculate if it might be related to carnitine, an amino acid. Carnitine is required for fatty acid metabolism and there are scientific articles that state that without carnitine in sufficient quantity fat will build up in the body in various places. Cat foods are more likely to be supplemented with carnitine (and other amino acids) than dog food. In addition, the amino acid lysine is the precursor to carnitine (it must be present in the diet in sufficient quantity for the body to make carnitine). Lysine is easily broken down in the production of dry food. A reaction known as the Maillard reaction occurs, which causes the irreversible binding of lysine with sugars/starches in kibble and, therefore, renders the lysine unavailable to the pet.
In any case, I am currently avoiding peas/lentils/legumes in Owen's food (I'm still feeding my cats Blue Wilderness and have no plans to change) and am considering changing his food to one that completely removes peas (I'm currently considering Dr. Tims and Farmina with me leaning towards the Dr. Tims).

If you have any concerns about your pet(s), PLEASE see a veterinarian.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A strange "bump" on Owen

DISCLAIMERS: I am NOT a veterinarian (I am a veterinary student, but have not finished school yet) so do not take my advice as that of a veterinarian! As always, consult your veterinarian for any concerns you may have about your pet(s).
Also, there are photos below of a skin lesion that might be gross to some people so read below if that's OK with you. 

Around the first of the year I bathed Owen (he gets regular baths) and, when I did, I noticed a bump on his left shoulder that had not been there before. It didn't seem to be bothering him, but was about the size of a small pea. I was somewhat concerned at that time but thought that maybe he had scratched himself or something so waited on it to heal.
I continued to watch the spot and, when it didn't go away by the 16th of January, I decided to take some pictures of it to document what it looked like and how large it was so I could monitor it more easily since at that point, I didn't think it was a wound. By this date, it was slightly larger (the size of a small button). Here is what it looked like on that day (16 of January).
January 16 2019 "Bump" on Owen
January 16 2019 "bump" on Owen
At that point, I decided to start trying to figure out what this bump was (being a veterinary student, I had access to good information to do so). I fairly easily discovered that it was likely either a mast cell tumor (VERY concerning as they are malignant) or a histiocytoma (MUCH less concerning). To learn more about histiocytomas, go here. Given Owen's age (3, almost 4 years old), and the location (front limb), I was leaning towards it being a histiocytoma (a benign skin tumor) but wanted to document size and characteristics just to be sure. I decided to wait to take him to the vet (knowing that he was going to be going in March for his annual heartworm test anyway so if it didn't go away, I could get it seen about at that time), monitor, and see if it went away since histiocytomas usually go away within 3 months.
Here's what it looked like on the 28th of January.
January 28th "bump" on Owen
January 28th "bump" on Owen
At this point, I was fairly convinced that it was indeed a histiocytoma as it wasn't growing rapidly like mast cell tumors often do, nor was it extremely itchy for Owen (it was maybe slightly itchy but not like I've seen dogs with mast cell tumors deal with). I continued to watch it and around February 12th, noticed that it was scabbed over and felt smaller. Here's what it looked like on that date.
February 12 "bump" on Owen
Between this time and now, it scabbed over a couple of times, each time getting smaller and smaller as the scabs peeled off. Now, the hair is starting to grow back in and the area is flat again. Here's what it looks like today, March 12th.
March 12 "bump" is gone!
So, given the progress and timeline of this "bump", I believe that it was a histiocytoma. Can I prove it? No, because I didn't subject Owen to a biopsy of the lesion. However, this is the most likely condition to behave like this and the signalment fits (Owen is young, the lesion was on his forelimb, it came up rapidly, it regressed within 3 months). The cause of histiocytomas is not known. However, it is thought to be induced by an immune reaction of some kind. Owen already has allergies so maybe that made him more prone to developing it. Who knows. The good thing is that it is gone and, hopefully, won't come back!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rainy day activities for dogs!

Hello everyone!
The beginning of this year (and late last year) have been very wet in my area (rain, not snow). This has led to days when it has been impossible to go outside for any length of time, which has led to a very unhappy Owen.
These are some of the things I do to keep Owen entertained on these wet days (though these would also totally work for cold/snowy days!).
1. KONG (or similar) toy or food puzzle toy. This one is obvious for many but fill one of these toys with dog food, dog treats, or other yummy food (Owen likes fruits and peanut butter the most in his KONG but also likes dog treats, canned dog food, etc. and in the puzzles, dry things work best). Tip: freeze a KONG before giving to your dog to make it last longer.

2. Give a chew toy. My personal favorite type of dog chew is the Himalayan Dog Chews ( They are fairly long-lasting, safe, and most dogs love them. They will keep a dog busy for quite a long time and will keep them distracted from the fact that they can't go outside to play.

3. Play tug-of-war or fetch with toys. These are also obvious games to play, but can get a lot of energy out, which will lead to a calmer and happier dog on those nasty days.
4. Do a training session. Nothing like a rainy/cold/snowy day to learn a new trick or skill! This can be a great time to teach something fun like "shake"/"give paw", "roll over", "speak", "high five", "spin", etc. but you can also work on basic obedience skills too ("sit", "down", "stay"/"wait", "leave it", "come", etc.).
5. My ALL time favorite game to play with a dog on a rainy day (or ANY day really) is hide and seek! I know! It sounds crazy to play hide and seek with a dog but it is TOTALLY possible and can be a blast for both dog and person!
To teach this game, your dog MUST know how to reliably stay/wait on command while you are out of sight (if you are not there yet with your dog, work on that first by having a training session or two). Start easy by having your dog stay/wait in a sit or a down position. Then go "hide." Make it easy at first, just going out of the room or behind something in the room the dog is in. Call your dog (only once!) or use their "release" (Owen's is "Okay!") word (again, only once). Make sure you have treats and when your dog "finds" you (again, hide in an easy spot at first), praise and give treats to encourage the behavior. Once your dog is good at this, you can make it harder by going farther away and hiding behind/on top of/under things. Remember to always praise your dog verbally and with treats and have fun with this game! It is really fun to have your dog seek you out and it helps build a stronger bond with your dog!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, New Goals!

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!

At this time, it seems everyone sets goals for the new year.

I think one that everyone with pets should set is to feed out pets better. If you're feeding a food that is not considered to be very good, or if you're already feeding a good food, we can ALL do better. Whether that means adding fresh, raw, canned, or switching to a better dry food, we should strive to do better for our pets.

In addition, we should all strive to get our pets into better shape (I also have a cat that needs this: Sunny). 

Here are some pictures of Owen, Smokey, and Sunny.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Update 12/31/2018

This update is long overdue. However, I have been very busy with veterinary school so there is that.
I do have some sad news that people who know me well already know but readers here may not. My guinea pig, Lilly, died last year on October 26th 2017 early in the morning after suffering what we believe was a stroke. Also, my bearded dragon died suddenly (the person that I got her from confirmed that hers also have died so maybe they were not super healthy genetically???) on November 16th 2018.
Now that the sad parts of the update are over, however, I can say that everything else is going well. Owen, Smokey and Sunny are all doing wonderful as is my leopard gecko Seze. My aquariums (30-gallon freshwater and 20-gallon saltwater) are doing well. I have a tank full of baby guppies that are probably close to half-grown.

As a veterinary student, I have been following the information about the dilated cardiomyopathy issue in dogs. I have been awaiting the study from U.C. Davis and, when it came out, I read it.
I do not think the problem is as widespread as some were suggesting initially. There appear to be a FEW brands that are potential problems (I am updating my dog food review page to reflect this), but some very widely used "grain-free" brands are not affected at all with cases of DCM, leading me to believe that there is not anything inherently wrong with "grain-free" foods, but that some foods are NOT using as much animal protein as they would have you believe (and instead are using lots of legumes which are low in sulfur-containing amino-acids that are the precursors to taurine).
I currently feed Owen a combination of foods. The ones I'm using right now are Wellness CORE Original, Blue Buffalo Life Protection Small Breed Adult Chicken and Brown Rice, and a variety of "wet" foods, which lately has mostly been FreshPet Select (Small Breed bites formula and Tender Chicken with Vegetables and Brown Rice rolled formula). I also give him "people food" including fruits (apples, blueberries, banana, etc.), vegetables (carrots, potato, butternut squash, etc.), meats (cooked ground turkey, cooked eggs, canned fish, cooked chicken) and small amounts of cheese (his favorite). I have done extensive research into incorporating "people food" into his diet and I feel that it is important to include fresh foods in his diet (if done carefully, it can be very healthy to do so). I do include meals that are completely homemade into his diet as well (in those, I use rice and/or oats and I also use some supplements in addition to the food types mentioned above).
However, I am not a nutritionist so don't treat my advice as a replacement for a consult with one.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lilly heath and diet news

So those who've read my blog for a while know that I have a guinea pig named Lilly. You might also know that I had to take her to the vet back in May 2014 due to cataracts that she had suddenly developed. At that time, the vet did a blood glucose test (results are in the article from 2014 but the number was 137) and this was considered "normal" at that time. I've since read that the upper end of normal for guinea pigs is 125 and that they are not normally that high so this result is in question in my mind. In addition, I've questioned that result off and on since then due to her other symptoms that match certain types of diabetes so well such as excessive water drinking/polydipsia, and excessive urinating/polyuria, struggling to keep weight on, etc.
Recently however, she has had some "scary" events that have made me think diabetes is more likely than not (I cannot PROVE this yet because she has not been officially diagnosed and I am not yet a veterinarian, but I think it is likely) and have made me alter her diet.
About a month ago, I fed her some red bell pepper (she had not had it in quite a while and I figured she would like some since she has always loved it). About an hour later, she was sitting extremely still in her cage and breathing heavily and was clearly feeling bad. I watched her and made sure she was OK and once she got better (a few hours later), I just assumed it was a fluke. A few days later, I gave her a couple of grape tomatoes and she did the same thing. Now, after having tried a few things, I have discovered that this occurs any time I feed her a high-sugar fruit/veggie, but not when I give her lower sugar items like leafy greens. After some reading (I have access to veterinary journals through the university that I'm studying at), I feel that diabetes is likely her problem and am looking for a way to test her sugar levels at home to know for sure.
In the meantime, I've read up on diabetes in guinea pigs and have discovered that dietary changes are frequently successful (or at least partly successful) in managing this condition in guinea pigs and have implemented these changes in Lilly's diet. She no longer gets those higher sugar fruits/veggies and gets a limited amount of high quality (Oxbow) pellets along with grass hay. She can eat things like leafy greens and small amounts of some other veggies. Since these changes, she has not had any episodes like the scary ones I mentioned above and clearly feels much better! If and when I get test results for blood/urine glucose, I will post an update.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Scary Snakebite!

On the morning of September 9th, Owen was outside playing and came to the door wanting in after only having been out for maybe five minutes (which was odd). So I let him in. In about a minute or so (maybe less, but I don't know for sure), I noticed he had something on his muzzle/nose in a couple of spots so I tried to check it out to see what it was (he often gets into leaves and dirt so I figured he had just gotten something like that on him). He did NOT want me to mess with it (which was weird since I am usually able to do pretty "invasive" things such as brushing his teeth) and tried to nip at me. In addition, he didn't even want to eat his favorite treats. So I got someone to hold him down while I looked and quickly realized that it was blood on his face and that his face was starting to swell a bit (not bad at this point, and the other people in the house were unable to feel it at this point).
So after checking the yard for "critters" (which we didn't find), we decided to take him to our wonderful vet. It was at the vet that he started to feel somewhat worse and that the swelling in his face and lips got worse. After a quick examination, our vet said that he had obviously been bitten by a venomous snake and likely a copperhead. The reasons for this are that copperheads have somewhat less potent venom (his reaction was not too severe compared to what some snakebites cause) and they are more likely than cottonmouth/water moccasins where we live (which is dry). He said that most dogs do fine with just a steroid shot and about ten days of antibiotics to prevent secondary infection from the punctures. We were told to give him some diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in addition to the prescribed medications the next day and to watch him for signs of necrosis (unusual, but can occur) and other problems.
Owen felt pretty lousy for a few days but I'm happy to report that he has fully recovered and that the only remaining sign of the bite is a small bump where one of the fangs went.
There is not really any good way to prevent snakebites in dogs other than to make your yard less desirable to the snakes and to watch your dog carefully in other areas.
If your dog is bitten, take them to a vet ASAP.