Thursday, November 21, 2013

National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month

By Brianna Backlund, DVM, DACVIM
Thursday, November 21, 2013

As the holiday season approaches, thoughts of pumpkin pies, gingerbread houses and sugar plum ferries occupy a lot of our free time. I’ve heard many people joke about going into a diabetic coma after taking in too much sugar. You may not realize that, although it’s not quite as straightforward as that, our canine and feline family members too can have serious consequences from an imbalance in blood sugar levels.

Is your cat or dog drinking a lot of water and urinating more than usual? Is your dog losing weight despite a good appetite or is your cat overweight? If so, then you might take them to your primary care veterinarian for screening for diabetes mellitus. Cats and dogs can also develop diabetes, just as humans can. One in 50 to one in 500 cats have diabetes and one in 100 dogs reaching 12 years of age has diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus results from the body’s cells not being able to use glucose taken in from food or made by the body for energy. This disease can develop due to a variety of underlying causes that can make the disease more complicated, but with uncomplicated diabetes mellitus, its original diagnosis is actually quite straightforward. In order to make the diagnosis, your veterinarian will simply need to collect blood and urine samples for testing with the goal of identifying high blood glucose levels with glucose in the urine. Just like people, diabetic pets often need a diet change as well as injections of insulin to allow glucose to enter the cells and provide them with the needed energy to function. Many of the insulin types used are the same as those used for human diabetics. As you can imagine, it is difficult to manage a human with diabetes. It can be just as difficult, if not more so, to undertake this care for a diabetic dog or cat.

As a general rule, this is a chronic disease condition that can respond well to appropriate insulin injections. If these subtle signs however have gone unnoticed for an extended amount of time, the body can only cope for so long without an appropriate supply of energy to the cells and your pet can develop an emergent condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). When your pet becomes very ill with DKA, they will most likely need to be taken to the ER for hospitalization, monitoring, supportive care, and starting insulin therapy.

If you have worries about your pet and feel that they are demonstrating some concerning signs, please take them in right away to your veterinarian for evaluation and to discuss diabetes mellitus in more detail.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Warnings from the FDA on Raw Food Diets

By Emilio E. DeBess, DVM, MPVM, State Public Health Veterinarian, Oregon Department of Human Services

November 2013

FDA warns about feeding your pet a raw-food diet
In a new study, compared to other types of pet food tested, raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, the FDA said
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cautioning pet owners about feeding their animals raw diets, warning that those who do may have a higher risk of getting infected with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.”

In a new study, compared to other types of pet food tested, raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, the agency said.

The new warning was issued after a two-year study, in which the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) screened more than 1,000 samples of pet food for bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

In the study, CVM sampled 196 commercially available raw dog and cat food. The center bought a variety of raw pet food online from different manufacturers and had the products shipped directly to six laboratories for analysis, according to the FDA. The raw pet-food products were usually frozen in tubelike packages and made from ground meat or sausage.

Of the samples analyzed, 15 were positive for salmonella and 32 were positive for listeria.

The study “identified a potential health risk for the pets eating the raw food, and for the owners handling the product,” said Dr. Renate Reimschuessel, a researcher at CVM’s Office of Research and one of the study’s principal investigators.

The FDA said the best way to prevent infection is to not feed your pet a raw diet; however, the agency is aware that some people prefer this type of food and offers some tips to prevent salmonella and listeria:
·      Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after handling raw pet food, and after touching surfaces or objects that have come in contact with the raw food. Potential contaminated surfaces include countertops and the inside of refrigerators and microwaves. Potential contaminated objects include kitchen utensils, feeding bowls and cutting boards.
·      Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet food. You can also run items through the dishwasher after each use to clean and disinfect them.
·      Freeze raw meat and poultry products until you are ready to use them, and thaw them in your refrigerator or microwave, not on your countertop or in your sink.
·      Carefully handle raw and frozen meat and poultry products. Don’t rinse raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Bacteria in the raw juices can splash and spread to other food and surfaces.
·      Keep raw food separate from other food.
·      Immediately cover and refrigerate what your pet doesn’t eat or throw the leftovers out safely.
·      If you’re using raw ingredients to make your own cooked pet food, be sure to cook all food to a proper internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Thorough cooking kills harmful foodborne bacteria.
·      Don’t kiss your pet around its mouth, and don’t let your pet lick your face. This is especially important after your pet has just finished eating raw food.
·      Thoroughly wash your hands after touching or being licked by your pet. If your pet gives you a “kiss,” be sure to also wash your face.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Case Study: Wild Mushrooms – Playing Roulette if You Eat Them for Dinner

Friday, November 8, 2013
By Beth Davidow, DVM DACVECC

It’s that time of year when all of us start seeing more mushrooms around. The combination of sun, rain, and increased organic material on the ground is perfect for fungal growth. This year in particular has been very good for mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest and those mushroom hunters who know what they are doing, have had a banner year. However, the conditions that make for amazing edible chanterelles, also lead to more of the poisonous variety as well.

Last weekend, we saw several cases of mushroom toxicity in dogs. Molly, a six-year-old female spayed Labrador, was seen to eat mushrooms in the yard. She vomited some mushrooms and began having diarrhea within the hour. However, she then became wobbly when walking and was comatose when she presented to our emergency hospital in Renton a few hours later. Molly was intubated (tube was placed in her throat to protect her airway) and we initiated breathing for her. We pumped her stomach to try to remove mushrooms and also gave her enemas, which removed even more mushrooms. She was placed on intravenous fluids as well as supportive ventilation. She needed to be ventilated overnight but by the next morning, she started to wake up and could breathe on her own. She continued to improve, was fairly normal by dinnertime and was sent home that evening, about 36 hours after arrival. She continues to do well with no organ injury.

The mushrooms were identified by a mycologist as Amanita muscaria. They are part of the family of “death cap” mushrooms, but unlike Amanita phalloides, they do not cause kidney or liver failure. Their appearance can vary making identification tricky. While the signs caused by Amanita muscaria are extremely dramatic, all the dogs we have treated with this ingestion have done well, but needed 24-48 hours of very intensive care. More information on this mushroom type can be found :

Amanitas are not the only poisonous mushrooms in this area. Other toxicities seen with mushrooms can include severe tremor syndromes, dangerously low heart rates, and severe gastrointestinal signs. Our veterinarians have treated pets with all of these different syndromes.

A general rule is that if your pet gets sick very quickly after eating a mushroom, they probably won’t have longterm damage but if they get sick hours later, it could be extremely serious. If you see your pet eats a mushroom, it is best to contact your veterinarian right away. If there are other similar mushrooms in the same vicinity, you can use a paper bag to pick a few for identification. Mushrooms are very tricky to identify but it is easier when they are stored in paper rather than plastic bags. The best way to keep your pet safe is to get rid of any mushrooms you see in your yard and to prevent them from eating any mushrooms they might find on a walk. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why Fat Cats and Dogs are a Problem

By Beth Davidow, DVM DACVECC
Wednesday, October 9, 2013

As the fall sets in, I always feel that I really want to eat more. The colder weather means we are inside, closer to the kitchen. I find I’m baking more and thinking about desserts for upcoming holidays. As we eat more, and spend more time in the kitchen, our furry companions tend to join us and they know just how to meet our eyes, do tricks and convince us, that they too need a little extra something yummy.

But just as extra pounds can be problematic for us, extra pounds can also be problematic for our pets. Because they are smaller than us, we sometimes don’t realize how much the percentage gain really is. While if we average 150 lbs and then went up to 200 lbs over the winter, we would probably be very concerned with our weight gain, we sometimes don’t bat an eye when our 15 lb cat suddenly becomes 20 lbs, a similar proportional gain.

Obesity is a huge problem for animals and has been an increasing problem. As in humans, obesity in our pets can lead to bone and joint problems, increased risk for certain cancers, increased heart and lung problems, increased urinary issues, and much increased risk for diabetes.

At our emergency hospital, one common life-threatening emergency in cats is urinary blockage. There are good studies that show that overweight cats are at a much higher risk for this condition than cats in good body condition. In small dogs, a large portion of the dogs with severe respiratory problems are also overweight. Many of these patients present on emergency needing oxygen and end up on many medications. If owners are successful in having these dogs lose weight, many end up requiring less medications over the long haul.

So why do dogs and cats become obese?  In the vast majority of cases it is because caloric intake is in excess of the calories burned during the day. In a few cases, they have an underlying problem such as hypothyroidism but this is the exception not the rule. Thus, to keep thin, pets either need less calories or more exercise. As in people, often the culprit is not the meals but the in between meal snacks. Remember that if your 10 lb dog usually gets a ¼ cup of food twice a day, two large milk bones probably increased his calories by 10%.

This fall, try not to succumb to that cute little face cocking their head at you to share your muffin. Although extra treats may show them you love them in the short term, the consequence may be higher vet bills and more trips to the emergency room. Instead, pick up their leash, brave the rain, and take them for a walk. You will both be happier and healthier in the long run.