Treat Your Pet to Good Health

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 15:43 by Dr. Sarah

Even though we act like it’s true, pets aren’t just like people. Ingesting empty-calorie snacks every once in a while can have a much greater impact on pets than humans, and not in a good way. Even feeding a diet of premium food may not offset the potential damage of ingesting “junk foods”, which often contain unsavory ingredients including artificial flavors and colors. In this particular health equation, it isn’t just a matter of subtraction (or taking away the bad stuff). Thanks to Dr. Jane’s wholesome recipes, you can actually add nutrients to your companion animal’s daily intake. In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah reveals how simple it is to make a positive change. If you want to provide your fur kids with the best possible nutritional advantage, you owe it to yourself to watch the latest episode right now. And, please, share this vital message with your friends and family, too!

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Canine Hypothyroidism

Friday, 22 April 2011 10:49 by Dr. Sarah

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is one of the most common canine hormone imbalances. This was not always the case. In recent decades, hypothyroidism diagnoses are on the rise.

In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah gives advice about how best to care for dogs that have already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, as well as provides the steps you can take to ensure that your dog has the best chance of staying healthy.

After you watch the video, click here for more information on Canine Hypothyroidism by Dr. Sarah.

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Parenting Emotionally Challenged Pooches

Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:16 by Dr. Sarah

In the last few months, we’ve been besieged with images and stories of destruction, the magnitude of which is difficult to comprehend: Australian floods, New Zealand earthquakes, and most recently the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. While the loss of human life and the impact on the human survivors makes up the majority of the coverage, we know that many of these people included pets in their families. What are the lasting impacts on behavior of the surviving companion animals? Is it true, as many people believe, that the emotional scars caused by trauma (whether it’s due to a natural event like an earthquake, or an unnatural act like physical or mental abuse) can lead to fearful or aggressive behavior? Just how common is emotional scarring in companion animals? The answers to these questions may surprise you.

The unfortunate companion animals affected by recent environmental catastrophes are likely experiencing what we call “post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD). PTSD is a recognized anxiety disorder induced by exposure to life-threatening trauma. Widely recognized as a diagnosis for people, PTSD has actually been studied in non-human animals, too. Research has actually shown that the brains of traumatized animals exhibit chemistries that differ from non-traumatized animals! True PTSD, however, is relatively rare in companion animals, developing as a result of a significant life-threatening event or predatory trauma.

If your dog has undergone a traumatic event, there are warning signs of PTSD, which include hiding, loss of house training, barking, loss of appetite and diminished interest in interacting with his human companions. It can also include out-of-character aggression. If your dog ever does go through a life-threatening or catastrophic event, veterinarians recommend providing a safe, secure area such as a crate, bathroom or laundry room, where your dog can get away from noise, people and other pets. Put familiar, comforting objects in the space, such as their own bed, favorite toys and/or an article of your clothing. Try and maintain a consistent routine, especially with regards to feedings, walks and play times. Like the traumatized pets in Australia, any pet that undergoes life-threatening trauma needs safety, a dependable routine, behavioral (and perhaps medical) intervention as soon as possible.

What about fear and aggression in non-traumatized dogs? We already know that true PTSD in dogs is rare, but too many shelter animals have been rescued from abusive or neglectful situations, so it’s not unusual for them to have fear or aggression issues.

Believe it or not, some dogs are genetically predisposed to experience heightened fear. Just as people can be shy or outgoing, dogs show similar personality inclinations. Other dogs will experience fear due to a specific trauma, such a frightening thunderstorm. While some argue that abuse, especially for young dogs, leads to PTSD, what is more likely is that rescue animals are simply poorly socialized during the critical developmental period between 3-16 weeks of age. At this age, puppies undergo a rapid learning process, making it the ideal window of opportunity for socialization. When puppies fail to encounter appropriate socialization during this critical period, they can develop fear or aggression later in life.

Even though they present challenges, negative experiences or insufficient socialization don’t have to define your dog’s long-term personality. Fortunately, there are ways to work through emotional issues. In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah talks about how to recognize the symptoms of fear and aggression, and how to deal with some of these issues.

What challenges have you experienced in parenting a companion animal with emotional or social problems? What helped you work through these issues? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 12:02 by Dr. Sarah

Thanks to advances in health care and nutrition, our beloved family pets are living longer and longer. Senior pets are becoming the norm rather than the exception, and with the happy increase in the number of furry senior citizens, there has been a shift in health concerns for both veterinarians and pet parents alike.

One area of great concern for veterinarian and dog parent alike is the decline in a senior dog’s cognitive abilities or brain function. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or CDS for short, is the term vets use to describe a degenerative brain disorder in senior dogs. Often, when pet parents are talking to their veterinarian, they will share that their senior citizen is uncharacteristically disobedient or soiling in the house. Other tell-tale signs of CDS include generalized anxiety (pacing or panting), confusion, decreased grooming habits, a changed appetite, acting depressed and forgetting regular habits. Signs of CDS are typically irreversible and progressive, but with effective treatment and management, the signs can be slowed and some can even be reversed. It is important to know that many of the signs of CDS can be confused with other diseases, such as hypothyroidism, arthritis or even dental disease, so if your senior dog is acting differently, schedule a full checkup with your local veterinarian.

One of the first questions pet parents usually ask when their veterinarian mentions the possibility of CDS is, “Is it like Alzheimer’s?” The answer is “Sorta.” CDS shares many similarities to symptoms of Alzheimer’s in humans, including similar microscopic changes and oxidative damage to brain cells that correspond to the severity of the disease. In fact, the two diseases are so similar that many of the treatments that are used in Alzheimer’s were first developed in dogs.

So if your dog has been diagnosed with CDS, what can you do? What about if you want to be proactive and take steps now to decrease the likelihood that CDS will mar your best friend’s golden years? In this video, Dr. Sarah goes over recent advances in treatment and prevention of canine cognitive syndrome.

References:

Cotman, C. W. et al. 2002. Brain Aging in the Canine: a Diet Enriched in Antioxidants Reduces Cognitive Dysfunction. Neurobiology of Aging 23: 809–818

Borra’s, D., Ferrer I., and Pumarola, M. 1999. Age-related Changes in the Brain of the Dog. Vet Pathol 36:202–211.

Dimakopoulos, A. C. and Mayer, R.J. 2001. Aspects of Neurodegeneration in the Canine Brain. Waltham International Symposium: Pet Nutrition Coming of Age.

Lansberg, G. 2005. Therapeutic Agents for the Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Senior Dogs. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 29: 471-479.

Milgram, N.W. et al. 2002 Landmark Discrimination Learning in the Dog: Effects of Age, and Antioxidant Fortified Food, and Cognitive Strategy. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 26: 679–695.

Fahnestock M, Marchese M, Head E, Pop V, Michalski B, Milgram WN, Cotman CW. BDNF increases with behavioral enrichment and an antioxidant diet in the aged dog. Neurobiol Aging. 2010 May 4.

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Feline Hyperthyroidism

Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:51 by Dr. Sarah

Since the late 1970’s, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of feline hyperthyroidism, making it the most common feline endocrine disorder in the world. What causes hyperthyroidism, and why is it so common? Previous studies of cats in the U.S., Great Britain and New Zealand have identified a number of risk factors for the development of hyperthyroidism, including genetic predispositions, the feeding of some canned cat foods and cross-breeding. Furthermore, some veterinarians believe feline hyperthyroidism is simply an outcome of cats living longer. But, if thyroid dysfunction is symptomatic of old age, why is it not more common in dogs, or people for that matter?

Veterinarians first noticed a dramatic surge in feline hyperthyroidism in the 1980’s. This rise coincided with the prevalent use of PBDE’s as a flame retardant in many products. A chemical flame retardant used widely in carpet pads, furniture, and electronics, PBDE (or, polybrominated dephenyl ethers) were researched in a recent EPA study that suggested that these chemicals may partly explain the current epidemic. PBDE’s linger in the environment, and cats ingest the substance in both foods and by licking their fur which retains house dust laced with toxic PBDE particles. Furthermore, studies have also shown a link between hyperthyroidism and BPA in the lining of many canned cat foods. Life’s Abundance is proud to inform our consumers that the lining in our canned foods is BPA-free.

An Environmental Science & Technology study reported in 2007 looked at whether hyperthyroid cats had greater body burdens of PBDE’s, and found that all cats have high levels compared to humans, with some cats with incredibly high levels (Dye et. al, 2007). The potential link between feline hyperthyroidism and PBDE exposure may be the veritable “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to evaluating the human health impacts of PBDE’s. People in the United States have the highest PBDE levels reported worldwide, according to a 2004 study also published in Environmental Science & Technology. By gaining a more complete understanding of chronic indoor PBDE exposure and its effects on thyroid hormone levels in cats, medical researchers can better assess whether the same risk exists for people. Researchers believe that further studies need to be performed before concluding a direct link between PBDE’s and feline hyperthyroidism.

There is good news, however. It isn’t necessary to rip up your carpet and throw out your furniture as these chemicals have been or are in the process of being banned in many states. And cats still live longer, healthier lives if they live primarily indoors, and the risk of being attacked by other animals or hit by a car while roaming outside is still much greater than the risk of developing hyperthyroidism from PBDE exposure.

What can you do if your cat has already been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism? What are the symptoms? In this video, Dr. Sarah reviews the signs of hyperthyroidism and treatments available. If you suspect your kitty has hyperthyroidism, schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian.

Potera, C. Environews Forum. Chemical Exposure: Cats as Sentinel Species. Environ Health Perspect. 2007. Dec;115(12)A580.

Wakeling J, Everard A, Brodbelt D, Elliott J, Syme H. Risk factors for feline hyperthyroidism in the UK. J Small Anim Pract. 2009 Aug;50(8):406-14.

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Canine Joint Disease 101

Friday, 17 December 2010 13:15 by Dr. Sarah

Unfortunately, arthritis is one of the most common conditions affecting dogs in America today. In 2008, arthritis was listed among the top ten disease conditions in dogs (source: VPI). According to recent data, there are as many as 10 million dogs currently suffering from the chronic pain of joint disease, and one in five dogs will develop arthritis or joint disease during their lifetimes.

Otherwise known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage that covers the tips of bones in movable joints, such as the elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, etc. Arthritis is generally a wear-and-tear disease seen more often in older dogs. As a result of continual rubbing, the cartilage wears away leaving bone ends exposed to each other. Since there are no nerve endings in the cartilage, no pain is felt until the cartilage is worn away; but when that happens, the edges of bones rub together causing pain and inflammation.

Arthritis can also occur in younger dogs as a result of genetic conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Canine arthritis is similar to human arthritis in that it cannot be cured, but the silver lining is that arthritis in dogs is not a hopeless condition. There are many effective treatments available to ease symptoms, slow progression of the disease and to help ensure your dog’s quality of life.

In this video, Dr. Sarah explains how to determine whether or not your dog might be suffering from this all-too-common disorder, as well as tips about how to manage pain and other symptoms should your dog be diagnosed with degenerative joint disease.

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Useful Tips for Winter Puppy Care

Friday, 19 November 2010 16:30 by Dr. Sarah

The holidays are fast approaching and, amid the hustle and bustle, many people choose to adopt a new puppy into their homes during the holiday season. If you are the proud pet parent of a brand new puppy, here are some great tips on how to best take care of your new bundle of joy during the cold-weather months.

Most puppies do fine in cold weather - many of the long haired large breeds love to chase snowflakes and romp through winter landscapes. If you are considering adopting a short haired breed or small puppy, never leave them outside unattended. Although it is important to watch them vigilantly to make sure they stay warm, most dogs can still enjoy short stints outside. Remember, puppies need a lot of attention and care, and for potty training purposes, they need to be able to relieve themselves every few hours. You can start potty training your puppy as young as eight weeks of age, and it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

If you have opened your home to a puppy this winter and are wondering about how best to care for your new family member, then watch this video. In it, Dr. Sarah talks about special considerations for puppies during the cold months and tips and tricks on how to beat old man winter.

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Tips for Better Skin Health

Wednesday, 20 October 2010 15:53 by Dr. Sarah

While underappreciated or even unrecognized as an organ, skin has amazing properties. For starters, it’s the largest organ of the body. Both tough and pliable, skin has many functions, including regulating body temperature, helping to prevent dehydration and protecting against injury and disease. Without skin, our pets couldn’t have hair, and everything that was on the inside would be exposed, making snuggle sessions a little on the icky side!

Canine and feline skin shares many similarities with human skin, but there are significant differences. They do have three layers of their skin, with the same nerves and blood vessels running throughout. Even though the pigmented skin in dogs contains melanin, dogs do not have the ability to tan like humans do. Also, they have apocrine glands (similar to human sweat glands), however, dogs do not sweat like we do. Instead, dogs have eccrine glands in their paws, which secrete a watery substance like sweat, although this typically only occurs when they are nervous and under stress. Now you know how it is that they can sometimes leave little damp paw prints when exiting the veterinary office!

As the body’s first line of defense to environmental factors, the skin is subjected to all sorts of insults and injuries. Critters of all stripes, from fleas to ticks to parasites (like mange mites) bite and damage the skin. Additionally, skin is under repeated assault by foreign objects, nibbling teeth, scratching claws and constant licking, all of which can weaken and impair the skin’s protective barrier. Skin can also be affected from the inside out by infections, hormonal imbalances, allergies and immune disorders.

Young pets are particularly suspectible to skin problems because their skin is more sensitive and their immune systems are not fully developed. Kittens, for example, are prone to ringworm (fungal) infections and puppies are predisposed to demodectic mange. If your puppy or kitten develops a rash, loses hair, or has bumps or warts, consult with your veterinarian to determine if treatment is necessary.

The bottom line is, healthy skin is a vital part of pet health, and its condition is a reflection of a pet’s overall well-being. Vulnerable to attacks on all sides, it’s very important that pet parents regularly monitor their pet’s skin health. Skin normally does its job well as the body’s protector, but sometimes even skin needs an extra boost. In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah reviews some common causes of skin and coat problems in dogs and cats, and reveals some safe and natural home remedies that promote overall skin health.

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How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 16:20 by Dr. Sarah

Repeated head shaking. Foul-smelling, waxy build-up. Red, painfully inflamed ears. What do all these things have in common? All are symptoms of otitis externa, or what is commonly referred to as ear infections. If you have ever groaned inwardly and felt dismay the moment your dog starts shaking his head or rubbing his ears along the nearest available surface, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, too many pet parents are more than familiar with this recurring medical problem. Often, it is accompanied by an offensive odor and one can only imagine how overwhelming the smell is to the suffering pup!

Canine ear infections result from an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the ear canal, causing redness, irritation and a heavy accumulation of wax. Likely triggers of these maladies are skin reactions to inhaled allergens – like pollen, mold or dust mites – or food allergies and sensitivities. Be aware that both large ears and swimming predispose dogs to ear infections.

Humans tend to develop ear infections as a result of viral infections, typically in infancy or early youth. As youngsters, our Eustachian tubes are very small. Respiratory congestion can lead to blockage of these canals, resulting in otitis media (a middle ear infection). Because the infection is internal, they frequently require oral antibiotics. In contrast, pets usually develop ear infections as adults, and the infection is almost always localized in the external portion of the ear. In most cases, the application of prescription drops or ointments directly into the ear canal usually resolves the illness. If you suspect your companion animal may be suffering from an ear infection, please seek veterinarian assistance for diagnosis and treatment. If necessary, your vet may prescribe a topical medicine and advise routine cleaning.

In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah reveals the steps to safe and effective ear cleaning to promote overall ear health.

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Doggie Dunce Caps: Bad Behavior or Serious Medical Issue?

Thursday, 19 August 2010 16:00 by Dr. Sarah

Have you ever found freshly dug holes in your backyard? Or bits of your favorite chair strewn across your den? Are you the proud parent of a canine that greets your guests by repeatedly jumping on them? Does your furry friend beg at the table, bark incessantly or strategically deposit her poo next to the dining room table? Simply put, if your dog could star in a film entitled “Dogs Gone Wild”, then you share a common complaint among dog lovers worldwide: frustrating behavioral problems. More...

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