Pancreatitis… Holiday Indulgence Is A Risk To Your Dog

This time of year veterinarians see a spike in cases of canine acute pancreatitis.  People aren’t the only ones who overdue it on the holidays.

If your dog has consumed more fatty table scraps than usual, or maybe got into the garbage and devoured the fatty remains of the carved turkey this Thanksgiving, they may find themselves with a case of this very painful condition.

The pancreas is an organ in the body that produces and secretes enzymes that aid in digestion. This organ also makes insulin, which controls blood sugar levels and metabolism.

Acute pancreatitis is the sudden (acute) onset of inflammation in the pancreas.  The inflammation makes the digestive enzymes start working in the pancreas instead of waiting until the enzymes reach the small intestine where they normally get to work.  As a result, the enzymes start digesting the pancreas.

In severe cases of pancreatitis, the enzymes leak into the abdomen causing the digestion of other organs too.  This can seriously damage the organs and result in death if not treated quickly.

Causes

There are things besides overdoing the fatty table scraps that can cause the sudden onset of pancreatitis.  Other contributors are:

Obesity

High-fat diets

Endocrine diseases

Medications

Toxins

Trauma to the abdomen

Scorpion stings (not a problem for most dogs in most of the country)

 

Sometimes, the cause is unknown.

Pancreatitis can occur in any dog but it’s more common in miniature schnauzers, miniature poodles and cocker spaniels.  It’s also more common in older dogs that are overweight and female.

Symptoms

The most common signs of pancreatitis are the same things you’d see if your dog was suffering from a thousand other illnesses: loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

But some other more concerning symptoms can occur like a swollen abdomen, an arched back, lethargy, restlessness, gagging, difficulty breathing, dehydration, and an increased heart rate.  In some cases, your dog may run a fever too.

If you suspect your dog has overloaded on too many table scraps passed under the table by doting relatives and they are exhibiting these symptoms, call your vet immediately.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will take a full medical history and do a complete physical exam.  In addition, they’ll run blood work and may also do imaging, like ultrasound or x-rays.

Treatment will mostly consist of managing symptoms.  Meds to relieve pain and reduce vomiting and nausea.  IV hydration and nutritional supplementation. And maybe antibiotics if there’s a secondary infection.

Your vet may also restrict food and fluid intake to allow for healing.  Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, treatment may mean hospitalization.

Once the symptoms are under control and your dog can be at home, your vet may limit activity and recommend a low fat, high carb diet.  This diet may be temporary until the pancreas heals, or permanent if pancreatitis is recurring or chronic.

Most healthy dogs will recover from acute pancreatitis.  A dog that has other health problems may have a harder time getting over it.

And severe cases can be fatal.

Prevention

Although you can’t completely prevent pancreatitis, you can most definitely reduce the risk of your dog getting it.  Manage your dog’s weight, avoid high-fat diets and table scraps, and keep the garbage pail out of your dog’s reach.

Feeding a well-balanced premium dog food like Husse can help prevent this condition.  Husse formulates their foods to provide the right balance between protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Husse Pro Limited, Prima Plus, Senior and Optimal Limited are all specially formulated for weight management and contain 9% or less fat.

Risks

Pancreatitis is unpredictable.  If the case is mild, and it’s your dog’s first episode, they will likely recover fine.  You may only need to watch their diet to prevent recurrence.  But sometimes what seems like a mild case can recur and be serious.

A dog with chronic (recurring) pancreatitis can develop serious complications.  The digestive enzymes can destroy the insulin producing cells in the pancreas resulting in diabetes.

And a condition called pancreatic insufficiency or maldigestion syndrome can result when the nutrients in your dog’s food aren’t absorbed.  They’re pooped out instead. This can cause malnutrition.

Your dog will be ravenous, have diarrhea and lose weight if they are suffering from maldigestion syndrome.  And although they are eating, they are starving to death because their body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.

It’s best to manage your dog’s overall health to avoid pancreatitis, and these serious and life-threatening complications.  Like with most other illnesses, early diagnosis of pancreatitis will improve your dog’s long-term prognosis.

Is your dog suffering from holiday overeating?  Has your dog ever had pancreatitis?  Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coconut Oil… The Risks And Benefits To Our Pets

If you’re keeping up with the latest human health trends, you may feel like I do…  every wellness recommendation includes coconut oil.  It seems to be the panacea of the 2010s.

Many animal health sites tout the benefits of coconut oil too.  I was with a friend recently who told me her holistic vet prescribed it for several of her dog’s ailments.

That got me thinking… is coconut oil everything it’s cracked up to be?  Are there benefits to using this oil with our pets?  And are there risks?

Well, there are some definite benefits to using coconut oil.  But also many unfounded claims about its effectiveness. And there can be risks.

The truth

Coconut oil comes from mature coconuts.  It is edible, so it’s used in food.  And these days you can find coconut oil in many beauty products.

This oil is high in saturated fat and is made up mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). That’s where the supposed health benefits are.

The fatty acids that make up MCTs travel directly to the liver.  The liver absorbs those fatty acids and uses them for energy.  They’re not stored in the body.

MCTs contain lauric acid, which is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral.  They also contain capric and caprylic acids, which are antifungal.

So how can coconut oil help your pet?  It can be very beneficial when used topically.

If your pet has dry, itchy skin, cracked paw pads or a dry nose, you can rub coconut oil into the skin. It’s great for elbow calluses too.   Here’s a link to a recipe for paw balm you can make yourself.

But you don’t have to get fancy.  You can use the oil straight up with no additions.  If you’re using it on dry flaky skin, rub the oil directly into the skin.

You can also use it for a shinier coat.  Take a small amount of oil in your hands.  Rub them together and pat the coat.  Run your fingers through the fur.  Not only will coconut oil improve the look and feel of your pet’s coat, some say it will also help if your pet smells.

Coconut oil is often touted for its antibacterial use on sores and minor cuts.  Be careful with this one.  If your dog has hotspots, using coconut oil can make the problem worse.  Hotspots are self-inflicted when a dog licks obsessively.  If they like the taste of coconut oil, using it on their skin can exacerbate the licking and worsen the hotspots.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that coconut oil has antibacterial benefits but no studies have yet been done on animals.

If your pet has a skin problem, be sure to talk with your vet before using coconut oil to be certain you’re treating the underlying problem.  They may recommend you use the oil as part of a treatment plan that includes other medications.

Coconut oil may be helpful as a parasite repellent.  A small study in 2004 found that a coconut oil-based remedy was effective for repelling sand fleas and reduced inflammation from fleabites. But tests have not been done on the cat and dog flea… the ones that love your pet.

Most veterinarians suggest, if using coconut oil, combining it with traditional repellents.

A 2015 human study found rinsing the mouth with coconut oil every day reduced plaque and plaque-caused gingivitis.  You could make the leap and say it would help your dog’s dental health too.  But the study involved swishing the coconut oil around the mouth and it’s hard to get a dog to swish.

Many dogs like the taste of coconut oil and it may help with dental hygiene… and bad breath too. So if you’d like to brush your dog’s teeth with coconut oil, it probably won’t hurt.

Does your pet have a hard time swallowing a pill?  Here’s another use.  Coat the pill with coconut oil.  It will be easier for them to swallow and they generally like the flavor.

The unsubstantiated claims

Coconut oil is promoted as a cure or prevention for everything from digestive problems to cancer.  Some say it improves cognitive function in older dogs.  Others say it helps with allergies and weight loss.  None of these claims are supported by science.  There have been no studies.

That’s not to say coconut oil can’t be helpful for some of these ailments. But there just isn’t scientific proof yet.

The risks

If the anecdotal evidence is enough for you and you want to try coconut oil with your pet, speak to your vet first.  They can monitor the effects and educate you to the downside.  Because the high saturated fat content can make some conditions worse.  Pancreatitis for example.

The high fat content is also a problem if your dog is overweight.  Some veterinarians say it adds a lot of calories with little nutritional value.  And there’s concern this oil can raise cholesterol levels and block the arteries too.

Although coconut oil is well tolerated by most pets, some may have an allergic reaction. And too much can cause diarrhea.

Remember too that coconut oil does not provide the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids your pet needs in their diet.  So be sure you’re still giving your pet salmon or flaxseed oil, besides the coconut oil.

How much and what kind?

If you give your pet coconut oil, use only the organic virgin cold-pressed kind. Easy to find at any health food store.

Start slow to be sure your pet isn’t allergic and to avoid diarrhea.

Start with ¼ teaspoon a day for small dogs and 1 teaspoon a day for big dogs.  Work up to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day.

If you have a cat, start with 1/8 teaspoon a day for an average size cat.  Work up to ¼ to ½ teaspoon once or twice a day.

What I’ve learned about coconut oil is that it has some proven benefits.  And it may even have greater benefits yet to be studied.  But I would proceed with caution.

Coconut oil is not a cure-all. Take the advice of your veterinarian before adding any supplement to your pet’s diet.

Do you use coconut oil for your pets?  How have they benefitted? Have they had any adverse reactions?  Share your experience with us at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Autumn Risks To Your Pets

Halloween may be behind us but scary things still lurk.

Autumn is a joyful season in so many ways.  Beautiful weather, changing leaves, the smell of a burning fireplace, pumpkin everything…

But for our pets, there are many hidden dangers.  Things that can make your pet sick and sometimes kill them. You may not have thought of these things as dangerous.  Awareness is the first step in keeping your pets safe.

  1. Costume remnants

Plastic light sabers, swords and masks can become chew toys for your dogs. Small pieces of plastic can be a choking hazard or cause a blockage.

The Halloween makeup that turns you into a zombie can be toxic to your pets if swallowed.

Glow necklaces and bracelets which may keep your kids safe in the dark aren’t safe for your pets to eat.  The liquid inside can irritate your pet’s gums if swallowed.  Drooling, foaming at the mouth, vomiting can all be signs.  Luckily, this is not usually fatal.

  1. Candy… particularly chocolate

If your house is overloaded with candy as mine is, be sure to keep it out of the reach of your pets.  All those gummy candies are choking hazards.

And chocolate can be deadly for both dogs and cats… though cats won’t usually be interested in eating it.

Theobromine in chocolate is poisonous.  How much of this substance is in the chocolate depends on the chocolate.  Dark chocolate has the most.

If your pet eats a sizeable amount, you’ll see the signs within 4 to 24 hours. Besides the usual signs of stomach distress, you may notice restlessness, hyperactivity, rapid breathing, and lack of coordination.  Ultimately, this can cause seizures and death.

  1. Candles

Fall ushers in the holiday season.  And cooler temps and holiday spirit set the tone for candle lighting.  Who doesn’t love the aroma of a pumpkin scented candle?

But a lit candle can injure your pets.  Never leave one within reach of your cat or dog.

And a curious pet can overturn a burning candle.  That’s a disaster!

  1. Parasites

Don’t let cooler weather lull you.  Ticks and fleas are out in full force this time of year.

These little pests aren’t just a nuisance.  They carry disease too.

  1. Raked leaves

In most parts of the country, the leaves are falling from the trees right now.

Maybe you enjoy letting your dog run through the piles after you rake them. It’s not a good idea.  Mold and bacteria grow in the leaves. If your dog ingests these pathogens, they can get sick.

And hidden sticks can injure a dog bounding through the piles.

  1. Acorns and buckeyes (conkers)

The gallotannin in acorns is toxic and can damage the liver and kidneys.

Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy—common signs of many illnesses—are what you can expect if your dog eats some. Acorns can also cause an intestinal blockage.

Buckeyes—conkers in England—are the seed of the horse chestnut tree.  These are different than the chestnuts we eat. This hard brown nut in a prickly casing can be dangerous to a dog.  If you have a horse chestnut tree in your yard, be sure to clean up the fallen buckeyes before your pet can get to them.

  1. Mushrooms and toadstools

Mushrooms love to grow in damp environments.  The weather this time of year is optimal.  Thankfully, most mushrooms aren’t dangerous. But a few can be deadly.

It’s difficult to identify the dangerous ones so keep your pet away from all mushrooms.   If they’re in your yard, get rid of them.

  1. Shorter days/colder temps

With less sunlight and more unpredictable weather, it can be difficult for your dog to get the exercise they need.  It’s difficult for people too.

If you find your walks are shorter or less frequent, be sure your dog isn’t putting on weight.  Cut back on food and treats if their waistline is growing along with yours.

Remember too that it may be dark when you are walking in the early morning or evening.  It will be harder for cars to see you.  Be sure you and your dogs are visible.  Reflective collars and leashes are available online and in pet stores.

And if your dog is older or one with a compromised immune system, a warm sweater or coat might be a good idea.  This may be wise for smaller dogs as well.

If your dog is arthritic, the colder weather will make long walks more challenging. Keep that in mind if your dog is not eager to walk this time of year.

  1. Rodenticides

The less pleasant side of cooler temps is the need for our rodent friends to seek shelter indoors.  You may find rats and mice taking up residence in your home.

If you have a problem with vermin, hire a professional to help you get rid of them.

Rodenticides (rat poisoning) is deadly if consumed by your pet.  If not placed correctly, your pet could end up eating some when the rodents drop pieces as they’re moving throughout your house.  A horrible thought… I know.

A professional exterminator will know the most effective and safe way to get rid of your unwanted guests.

If your pet ingests rat poison, they will bleed internally.  You’ll see the signs in bloody feces, bruising, and black tar-like poop.  Get to the vet immediately!

If you suspect your pet has swallowed something toxic, the number for the ASPCA Poison Control Center is 888-426-4435.  The Pet Poison Helpline is 855-764-7661.

Has one of these autumn dangers injured your pet?  I hope not.  But if so, share your experience in the comment section at the top.  It may save another pets life.

 

 

 

Urinary Tract Infections… 9 Signs Your Dog May Have One

Many times my articles come from my personal experiences as a pet owner.  Like this week’s post, for instance.  It came about as the result of a weekend stressing over whether my dog had a urinary tract infection (UTI).

My 10-month-old golden is in heat.  You’ll see why that’s relevant in a minute.  In my last post about spaying I mentioned there are benefits to waiting until after the first heat before spaying.  And here we are. This is her one and only cycle.

I boarded her last week because I was out of town.  When she came home she was having accidents in the house.

At first I thought maybe she’s doing this because she’s in season.  After 2 days of following her around with paper towels, I decided something’s up.

It’s been a while since once of my dogs had a UTI so I thought I should refresh my memory about the symptoms.  I did research.  By the time I finished surfing the web, I was pretty convinced she had an infection.

One soup ladle of urine and a visit to the vet later, my prediction was confirmed… UTI. More on the soup ladle in a minute.

Because these infections are unpleasant—for you the pet parent and your dog who’s in pain—I wanted to share the details of my experience.  If you know the signs to look for you can spare any unnecessary suffering.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection is most often a bladder infection but it can be an infection in the kidney, ureters, or urethra.

They’re much more common in females than males.   As dogs age, they become more vulnerable.  From 7 on, dogs are more susceptible.

The cause of a UTI is usually bacteria that enter the urethra.  The bacteria can come from anywhere… poop, dirt, etc. Most often, a healthy dog will ward it off.  But a dog with a weakened immune system might not be able to fight off an infection.

That’s what happened with my girl.  It was the perfect storm.  The hormonal changes from her cycle coupled with the stress of being boarded lowered her immunity.

In addition, she had more crate time when she was boarded so she probably didn’t relieve herself as often as she would normally.  Because she didn’t flush out the bacteria, an infection took hold.

Poor nutrition can also affect the immune system resulting in an infection.  And dogs with frequent UTIs may need to change their diet as part of their treatment.

Less often, UTIs are caused by something more serious like cancer, bladder disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or prostate disease.

What are the signs?

If your dog has a UTI, the symptoms can be obvious but they can also be subtle.  Sometimes, a dog may show no signs at all.

But if your dog shows any of the following signs, it may mean a UTI.

Straining to urinate

Crying while urinating

Accidents in the house

Blood in the urine

Frequent urinating in small amounts

Dribbling urine

Frequent licking of genitals

Lethargy

Loss of appetite

My dog was having accidents in the house.  And as I think about it, her constant squatting outside was her straining to go, even though I thought it was because she was in heat.  Blood in the urine—couldn’t really tell because she was bleeding from her heat.

Other than that, she seemed normal.

UTIs feel no different to a dog than they do to a person.  A constant feeling you have to go.  Hence all the accidents.  They’re pretty miserable.

How does the vet diagnose and treat a UTI?

Here’s where the soup ladle comes in.  If you think a 10-month-old golden retriever who’s in perpetual motion will let you stick a cup under her when she’s peeing, you are mistaken.

But a soup ladle gives you the perfect trajectory.  I didn’t have to get too close to her to make her scoot away.  And she never even felt the ladle slip under her to catch the urine.  It works perfectly.  I recommend it if you ever need to get a sample.

Your vet will want a free catch sample.  This is the first morning urine.  If you’re not going straight to the vet, refrigerate the sample.

If you can’t get a sample, your vet may collect urine by inserting a needle into the bladder. This procedure is relatively painless with few complications.

They’ll do a urinalysis in the office to see if there are white blood cells in the urine indicating infection.  Then they’ll send the sample out to be cultured to find out what type of bacteria is causing the infection.  This determines which antibiotic your vet will prescribe.

In my case, the vet gave me an antibiotic he uses to treat 90% of the bacteria he sees in UTIs.  If the culture comes back tomorrow and he needs to change the meds, he will.  But he wanted to get her treatment started and he probably won’t need to make a change.

Can you prevent a UTI?

Yes and no.  You always want to be sure your dog is eating a well-balanced nutritious diet like Husse to keep their immune system functioning normally.

Also, be sure your dog is drinking enough water every day so they urinate often.

Your vet may recommend a probiotic to prevent recurring UTIs.  They get rid of the bad bacteria and help the immune system.  Many super premium foods like Husse include probiotics in their recipe.

But my dog is a healthy 10-month-old, and she got an infection.  You can’t control everything.

The good news is most dogs recover from a urinary tract infection with no complications. But you should act quickly if you suspect an infection because a UTI can travel to other organs if it’s untreated. And an infection can be the sign of a bigger underlying problem.

Has your dog ever had a UTI?  How did you know? Share in the comment section above.

 

8 Myths About Spaying and Neutering Your Pet

Pet owners who think they have a legitimate reason for not spaying or neutering their pet will vehemently debate this topic.  But it’s an important part of every pet’s health care.

Spaying is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus in a female.  Neutering is removal of the testicles in a male.

And neutering is also the general term used for the procedures in both males and females.

There is no legitimate reason to not neuter your pet.  Unless you are a responsible professional breeder of purebred dogs or cats breeding to maintain the characteristics of the breed, you should spay or neuter your pet.

Both procedures have lifelong health and behavioral benefits.

Spaying helps prevent uterine infections, and cancer of the breast, ovaries and uterus.  These are all usually fatal in dogs and cats.

In fact, when I was a child one of my dogs died suddenly from a uterine infection.  For some reason unknown to me, my parents didn’t spay her.  I would never repeat that mistake with my own dogs.  It was devastating!

In males, neutering prevents testicular cancer.  And those intact males will roam.  They’ll do anything to find a female.  That includes digging under fences and finding escape routes out of your home.  An animal on the loose can be hit by a car or injured in a fight with another male.

People who choose not to neuter their pet have some misconception about what it means to do so.

If one of these 9 myths is stopping you from spaying or neutering your pet, please rethink your position.

Myth 1:  My pet is a purebred and they’re too beautiful not to breed.

1 out of every 4 pets brought to shelters are purebred.  You are adding to the problem of overpopulated shelters if you breed your pet.  Even if you can find homes for the babies in your litter that means fewer homes for the purebreds in the shelter.

Myth 2: My pet will get fat and lazy.

The only reason pets get fat and lazy is because their owners feed them too much and don’t give them enough exercise.

Myth 3: My pet has such a great personality; I must breed them to get a whole litter of puppies or kittens just like my pet.

There’s no guarantee of that.  The best breeders in the world can’t guarantee the personalities of the puppies or kittens in a litter.

Myth 4:  Spaying/neutering is expensive.

This is not true.  Many states and counties have low-cost spay/neuter programs.  Here’s a link to the low-cost spay/neuter finder at the Humane Society of the United States.

The cost of not fixing your pet is likely to be substantially higher.  A litter requires expensive veterinary care and vaccines.

When your intact male gets out of your house and sustains injuries in a fight or run in with a car, the vet bills will be a lot more expensive than the cost of neutering him.

And another added expense is licensing.  Counties charge higher fees to license an intact dog than a dog that’s spayed/neutered.

Myth 5: I want my children to experience the miracle of birth.

This is not a good reason to add to the pet overpopulation problem.  YouTube is a video treasure trove of dogs and cats giving birth.  If you want your kids to experience birth, have at it.

Myth 6: I don’t want my dog to lose his protective personality.

If your dog has a protective personality, he has that trait because of genetics and environment not sex hormones.  He will be just as protective after he’s neutered.

Myth 7:  I don’t want my male dog or cat to feel less male.

This is your worry… not his.  Pets don’t “feel” male.  He will have no emotional reaction to being neutered and it will not change his personality.

Myth 8:  I’ll find good homes for all the puppies or kittens my pet has.

No, it’s likely you won’t.  Even if you do find them homes, you can’t be sure they’re all good homes.  And you have no control over what happens to those animals once they leave your care.  For all you know, they may end up in a shelter.  Or their puppies or kittens might.

There are many more benefits than drawbacks to neutering your pet.  Besides their health and reducing the pet overpopulation problem, your pet will behave better.

Dogs will bark less, mount less and be less dominant.  You can often avoid aggression problems by neutering early.

Cats will mark less, yowl less, and urinate less often if they’re fixed.

But most importantly your beloved pet is likely to live longer.  A 2013 article in USA Today revealed the results of a study that showed neutered male dogs live 18% longer than unneutered males. Spayed females live 23% longer than unspayed females.

And who doesn’t want to give their pet every opportunity to live a longer healthier life?

When you decide to spay or neuter your pet, speak to your vet about the timing.  The common recommendation is between 5 and 9 months. But studies show benefits to waiting until after puberty.

What are your thoughts about neutering your pet?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

The Silent Dog Killer You’ve Never Heard Of

I read a heartbreaking story a few days ago.  A seemingly healthy Doberman died suddenly from a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  A condition its owner was unaware he suffered from.

How devastating to lose a beloved pet to an illness you were unaware they had!

This horrible ailment can be a silent killer.  But it’s my hope that if you know what to look for, you may catch some early warning signs.  Early diagnosis and treatment can increase life expectancy and quality of life.

But unfortunately DCM is fatal.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

DCM is a disease of the heart muscle that affects its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.  From the picture below you can see that the disease causes the heart to enlarge and the walls of the heart to thin.

DCM in Dogs 2

Usually DCM affects one side of the heart more than the other.  In this illustration, the left side is enlarged.

An enlarged heart becomes overloaded, has weakened contractions, and can’t pump blood properly to the rest of the body.  Over time, this leads to congestive heart failure and death.

DCM occurs in dogs between the ages of 4 and 10 years old and more often in males than females.

It is most common in large and giant breeds like Dobermans, Boxers, Scottish Deerhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes and Newfoundlands.  But this condition also affects Cocker Spaniels.

Despite the prevalence in large breeds, DCM can happen to any breed but it’s not often found in small dogs… except for the Cocker.

Because some breeds are predisposed, there’s clearly a genetic component.  But no one is certain what brings this malady on.

A deficiency in taurine or carnitine has contributed to DCM in Dobermans, Boxers and Cockers.

Other underlying conditions like low thyroid levels, inflammation of the heart muscle, prolonged rapid heart rate, and poor blood flow to the heart muscle can also cause DCM.

What are the signs of dilated cardiomyopathy?

A dog with DCM could die unexpectedly, never having exhibited any symptoms of this deadly condition… like that Doberman I read about.  An irregular heart rhythm brought on by DCM is all it takes sometimes.

At first, the symptoms may be subtle and go undetected without a thorough exam.  Breathing that has a muffled or crackling sound due to fluid buildup in the lungs isn’t something you would notice. Missing pulse waves (which cause an irregular heart rhythm) and slow capillary refill time (the time it takes for the color to return after pressing on the gums) are signs of DCM that you would find only if you were looking for them.

More obvious symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid or excessive breathing, coughing (especially during activity), excessive panting, and reduced interest in exercise are all signs that something serious is wrong.  The sooner you see your vet and they diagnose DCM, the faster you can begin treatment.

If your dog’s DCM has progressed to congestive heart failure, you’ll know by:

A swollen belly from fluid buildup

Fainting due to lack of oxygen flowing to the brain

A bluish gray tongue or gum color from poor oxygen flow

Weight loss due to inability to store healthy fat

Once the condition has progressed to heart failure life expectancy is 6 to 24 months depending on the breed and the progression of the disease.  Dobermans are so severely affected by this disease they rarely live more than 6 months. Cockers will survive longer.

What is so sad about DCM is the signs seem to develop over night.  But for months—maybe even years—the heart muscle abnormality is progressing silently.

If your vet suspects your dog is suffering from DCM, they will do a thorough examination. But they’ll want to run tests too.  A chest x-ray, electrocardiogram, and an echocardiogram will help to determine how the disease is progressing.

How about treatments for DCM?

The treatments that exist will improve heart function and treat the symptoms. There is no cure.  In fact in humans, a heart transplant would be indicated for this condition.

Your vet will prescribe drugs to improve heart contraction and slow rapid beating.  Diuretics will control fluid buildup in the lungs.

Vasodilators are drugs that induce dilation of the blood vessels and vets often prescribe them for DCM.

If your dog has a taurine or carnitine deficiency, their treatment may include supplements or a food like Husse’s Ocean Care or Optimal Limited that have these nutrients.  A thyroid problem will need thyroid treatment.

Your vet will decide the best course of action based on your dog’s needs.  But the treatment will only improve your dog’s quality of life for their remaining time with you, which the treatment may lengthen somewhat.

This is one of those conditions we as pet parents can’t control.  But we can educate ourselves so we may lessen our beloved pets’ suffering.

Has dilated cardiomyopathy affected your dog?  Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Safely Store Your Pet Food

I’ve said often that researching and writing this blog have made me a more informed and smarter pet owner.   Years of pet ownership can lull you into thinking you know all there is to know… or most everything anyhow.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s always good to keep up to date and educated about issues that keep your pets happy and healthy.  And hopefully this blog helps you do that.

Food storage, which seems straight forward, is one thing I thought I had all the answers to.  But some things I’ve learned in the last few days are causing me to question that.  You may find, after reading this, you need to rethink your pet food storage too.

If you read this blog, you’re probably already putting a lot of effort into choosing the best quality food you can afford for your pets.  But do you know the right way to store it so it maintains maximum nutritional value and freshness?

Whether you feed dry, canned or raw there are right and wrong ways to store your pet’s food.

First, always check the “Best by” or “Best before” date.  All pet food has one on the packaging.  Once the food is past the date, it’s time to throw it out.

When you buy your food, choose a “Best by” date that’s far enough out you’ll be able to finish it before it’s spoiled.

Food can go bad even before the “Best by” date if the packaging is compromised.  So check before you buy to be sure bags aren’t torn or open, and cans aren’t bulging or leaking.

If the food doesn’t smell or look right when you open the bag, or if your pet won’t eat it, notify the manufacturer immediately.  If they’re reputable, they’ll refund your money or replace the food.  But more importantly, they need to know if there’s a problem in their manufacturing or packaging process.

Storing dry food

If you feed your pet kibble—which I do—air, light, hot temperatures and humidity can degrade your pet’s food.  Exposure to any of these environmental factors at the least puts your pet at risk of not getting the nutritional benefits from their food.  At worst, they can get very sick from mold, bacteria or rancidity.

High temperatures and moisture inside the bag of food can increase the risk of salmonella and other bacteria as well as mold growth.  This contamination can make your pet sick.  In fact, it can kill them.

I read a story on social media the other day about a family that lost two dogs who consumed moldy food.  After the dogs died, the owners inspected the bag of food and found the food at the bottom was covered in mold.  Somehow, moisture got in allowing the mold to grow.

This leads to another important storage consideration.  Many food manufacturers recommend keeping your pet’s food in the bag it comes in instead of transferring it to a food bin.  The bags are made to absorb any excess fat that accumulates and might turn rancid.

The bags also keep light out.  And moisture, if you are careful about where you store the food… off the floor and in a dry location.  You must also close the bag correctly by rolling the top down and securing it with a clip.

But if you leave the food in the bag, you won’t see all the food before your pet eats it.  You won’t see if there’s mold in the bottom until you get to the bottom. That’s a huge risk.  One I hadn’t considered before I heard of these poor dogs, and one I’m not willing to take.

But I was already using a food bin for reasons I’ll tell you in a minute.

My suggestion for you is to follow the manufacturers recommendation with regard to storing in the bag. You could empty the food, inspect it, and then put it back in the bag.

If you’re worried about fat turning rancid, this is a bigger problem for lower quality foods. They tend to spray the necessary fat in the recipe on the outside of the kibble.  Premium foods, like Husse, use a vacuum process so the fat penetrates the kibble.

If you feed a premium food, the risk of mold is a bigger concern than rancid fat.  So the argument for keeping the food in the fat-absorbing bag may not outweigh the risks of moisture getting in and mold growing.

This is especially the case if the manufacturer uses a micro perforated bag.  These bags have miniscule holes to keep air from building up and inflating the bags in the warehouse.  This can lead to puncture when the bags are stacked.  The holes are small enough to keep pests out but moisture can still get in.

If you opt for the food storage bin, metal or glass are better than plastic.  Plastic can leach chemicals and possibly retain residual fat.

But if you’re already using plastic like I am, that’s okay.  Just be sure to thoroughly clean the container between each bag of food. This assures that you’ve gotten rid of any left over crumbs which will go bad, or fats that have adhered to the container and can turn.

And don’t mix old kibble with new kibble.  Finish the old first.  If it has been over 6 weeks since you opened the bag… throw it out, wash the bin, and fill with fresh food.

Regardless of the container you use to store the food, never store it in the garage.  Summer temps can top 100 in there. And vitamins degrade at 104 degrees.  Garages can be humid too, increasing the moisture risk.

Find a cool, dry location in your house.  Possibly the pantry or another closet.  But storing in the pantry can contaminate other food products if the pet food bag has meal moths.

And that’s why I store my dogs’ food in a food bin.  Since my experience with these annoying critters—read Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon to hear more about that—I’ve emptied my dog food out of the bag to check for meal worms/moths.  And after reading about that deadly mold, I will continue to do so.

I store my food bins in the coat closet.  That moth infestation was not easy to get out of my pantry and I’d rather not go through it again.

Store the bin off the floor to avoid pests and moisture getting in.

If you empty the food from the bag, save the UPC code, lot number, brand, manufacturer, and “Best by” date in case you have a problem with the food or it’s recalled.

Storing canned food

If you feed your pet food from a can, those cans can stay fresh for years if unopened and stored in a cool, dry location.  Again, below 100 degrees.

But don’t buy more than you’ll use before the “Best by” date.

Once the can is open, it can last for 4 hours at room temperature.  Then you should throw it out.

Refrigerate any unused food for up to a week.  Cover the can with a plastic pet food lid or plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss and odor transfer.

If you don’t think you’ll get through the can in a week, then you can freeze single serve portions.  But freezing can change the texture and taste.

Storing refrigerated pet food

These types of foods have a short shelf life.  Check the “Best by” dates. Once they’re open for 5 days, you need to throw them out.  You may be able to freeze these foods, however.  But check the packaging to be sure.

Commercially produced raw food diets have storage instructions on the package.  If you make your own raw food diet for your pet, you may not be sure of the best way to store it.

Some meats spoils faster than others.  And raw meat contains high levels of bacteria, making proper storage even more critical.

You can refrigerate ground meats—whether beef, poultry or fish—for up to 2 days.  If you won’t get through it in that time, freeze it.

Large cuts of meat can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.  You can freeze meat if it’s wrapped well for 4 to 6 months.

Whatever food you feed your pets, be sure you are storing it so they can get the most nutritional benefit, and you can avoid a serious and potentially fatal illness.

How do you store your pet food?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at the top of the page.