Tag Archives: Pet Care

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Travel2020: Take the horse, leave the pig at home

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The phrase “when pigs fly” could become a reality in the near future, but for now, flying livestock will be restricted to miniature horses, according to one airline’s new service animal policies that will go live on April 1.

American Airlines announced the new policies in light of an increasing trend of passengers who prefer to fly with their support pets. To that end, fully trained service animals and emotional support/psychiatric service animals may fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements. Those requirements are:

  • One emotional support or psychiatric service animal per person.
  • Animal must be a cat or a dog or a trained miniature horse.
  • Animal must be clean and well-behaved.
  • Animals must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap (lap animals must be smaller than a 2-year-old child).
  • If the animal is in a kennel, it must fit under the seat in front of you with the animal in it.

Image credit: American Airlines

Meanwhile, these animals cannot:

  • Be seated in an exit row
  • Protrude into or block aisles
  • Occupy a seat
  • Eat from tray tables

In a press release, American stressed five points on the matter.

Alaska Airlines is also reviewing its support animal pet policies following a lawsuit launched after a 5-year-old girl was allegedly mauled by a pit bull at the airline’s gate in Portland in 2017. The $1.1 million suit was filed in late February.

Delta Air Lines also saw a pit bull attack incident unravel in recent years as a passenger was mauled by another passenger’s support pet. Delta said in a news report about the incident that it carries about 700 service or support animals daily, or nearly 250,000 annually — up 150 percent since 2015. The airline noted an 84 percent increase in animal incidents since 2016.

Last year, United Airlines caught attention for refusing to allow a support peacock to board. Delta Air Lines might have had a different take as peacocks, the airline reasoned, could not be classified as farm poultry and, although exotic for a pet, could not be ruled out as a support animal.

To find out the latest in pet policies on American carriers, here is a list of links that will assist. To find out about policies on international carriers or business class flights, please check with your airline.

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What you need to know about diabetes in cats

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It is vital for cats and other mammals to maintain a steady level of blood sugar (glucose), as glucose plays an important role in many processes in their bodies. Diabetes mellitus is a disease that results in high blood glucose levels and is a common disease in cats.

To fully understand diabetes, it is important to know how blood sugar is controlled. In healthy individuals, blood sugar levels are tightly controlled by two hormones, glucagon and insulin. These two hormones act in opposite ways to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

When blood glucose rises, insulin is secreted from the pancreas. This tells certain cells in the body to absorb glucose, therefore lowering blood glucose. When blood glucose drops below normal, glucagon is released from the pancreas.

This signals glucose to be released into the blood stream and brings blood sugar levels back up to normal. Thus, diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to control blood glucose levels or the body cells are not responsive to the insulin that is produced.

In cats, the most common type of diabetes closely resembles type II diabetes in humans. Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells in the body become insulin resistant. In other words, cells become less responsive to insulin and do not take up blood glucose as readily.

This is very different from Type 1 diabetes, in which the body destroys pancreatic cells and not enough insulin can be produced to control blood glucose levels. Diabetes in dogs typically resembles Type 1 diabetes in humans.

What Causes Diabetes in Cats?

There are multiple factors that can increase the risk of diabetes in cats including age, breed, and body weight. Of these factors, obesity is the most significant, with overweight cats having a greater risk of developing the disease compared to cats with an ideal body condition [1].

Contrary to popular belief, various studies have found that diet type (i.e. kibble vs. wet food) does not impact the prevalence of obesity in cats [2, 3]. Rather, an inactive lifestyle and excessive caloric intake remain the most significant risk factors for obesity in cats [4, 5].

Therefore, it is very important for pet parents to manage their cats’ calorie intake and body condition to help mitigate the risk of diabetes.

Carbohydrates and Feline Diabetes

Because cats are obligate carnivores, there exists a common misconception that they should not consume carbohydrates. This has led to the suggestion that the consumption of high carbohydrate diets may increase the risk of diabetes in cats.

However, the evidence shows that healthy cats can efficiently digest and absorb carbohydrates [6]. In fact, it has been shown that the consumption of various levels of carbohydrates provided by a variety of ingredients has a minimal effect on blood glucose levels in cats [7].

Furthermore, in cats fed either a low or high carbohydrate diet, no differences in insulin levels were found [8]. These results suggest that carbohydrates do not negatively impact the insulin response or result in persistently high blood glucose levels in healthy cats.

Several studies have also been conducted to specifically evaluate the potential role of carbohydrates in the development of diabetes in cats, and all have come to similar conclusions. High carbohydrate intake is not considered a risk factor for the development of feline diabetes [9] and the greatest contributors to insulin resistance appear to be obesity [10] and increased consumption of dietary fat [11].

Management of Diabetes

There are multiple methods to manage feline diabetes which include both medical and nutritional interventions. Of these management regimes, insulin therapy has proven to be the most effective method of treatment to help control blood sugar in cats [12]. However, for owners who would rather not turn to medical treatment, there are some nutritional interventions that have proven to be effective for diabetic cats.

Although the evidence shows that healthy cats can efficiently use dietary carbohydrates, diabetic cats may have difficulty doing the same [13]. Therefore, providing diabetic cats with lower levels of carbohydrates may be an effective method to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream and help manage diabetes [13]. Several clinical studies have shown beneficial effects of feeding low carbohydrate diets to diabetic cats, with many cats going into remission [14, 15].

Though there are documented benefits to feeding a low carbohydrate diet to diabetic cats, it is important to remember that carbohydrates are not the only macronutrient that should be considered.

When dietary carbohydrate level is decreased, fat and/or protein levels must increase. This can become an issue when diets with low levels of carbohydrates have high amounts of fat, which has been shown to contribute to insulin resistance [11].

However, a high protein, low fat, and low carbohydrate diet may not be the ideal choice either for a diabetic cat. In older cats especially, diabetes and kidney disease are issues that can often both be present.

In these cases, a high protein diet would not be beneficial because they are also typically high in phosphorus, which is not recommended for cats with kidney disease. Therefore, dietary management of cats with diabetes must consider all health conditions and should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Although low-carbohydrate diets have proven to be beneficial for some diabetic cats, controlled blood sugar and, in some cases, remission can also be achieved by feeding higher carbohydrate diets designed to manage the disease [6]. Rather than containing high amounts of easily absorbed simple sugars, these specially formulated diets include complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre to help manage both obesity and glucose levels in cats [6].

Conclusion

Overall, there are multiple factors that can lead to the development of diabetes in cats. To reduce the risk of the development of the disease, it is most important to promote physical activity and manage caloric intake to help maintain an ideal body weight. For cats with diabetes, there are multiple methods to help manage the disease that should be discussed with your veterinarian.

References

1. McCann, T.M., et al., Feline diabetes mellitus in the UK: the prevalence within an insured cat population and a questionnaire-based putative risk factor analysis. J. Feline. Med. Surg., 2007. 9(4): p. 289-99.
2. Cave, N.J., et al., A cross-sectional study to compare changes in the prevalence and risk factors for feline obesity between 1993 and 2007 in New Zealand. Prev. Vet. Med., 2012. 107(1-2): p. 121-33.
3. Robertson, I.D., The influence of diet and other factors on owner-perceived obesity in privately owned cats from metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Prev. Vet. Med., 1999. 40(2): p. 75-85.
4. Kienzle, E. and R. Bergler, Human-animal relationship of owners of normal and overweight cats. J. Nutr., 2006. 136(7 Suppl): p. 1947s-1950s.
5. Russell, K., et al., Influence of feeding regimen on body condition in the cat. J. Small Anim. Pract., 2000. 41(1): p. 12-7.
6. Verbrugghe, A. and M.J.V.s. Hesta, Cats and carbohydrates: the carnivore fantasy? 2017. 4(4): p. 55.
7. Asaro, N.J., et al., Carbohydrate level and source have minimal effects on feline energy and macronutrient metabolism. J. Anim. Sci., 2018: p. sky365-sky365.
8. Coradini, M., et al., Effects of two commercially available feline diets on glucose and insulin concentrations, insulin sensitivity and energetic efficiency of weight gain. Br. J. Nutr., 2011. 106 Suppl 1: p. S64-77.
9. Slingerland, L.I., et al., Indoor confinement and physical inactivity rather than the proportion of dry food are risk factors in the development of feline type 2 diabetes mellitus. Vet. J., 2009. 179(2): p. 247-53.
10. Hoenig, M., et al., Insulin sensitivity, fat distribution, and adipocytokine response to different diets in lean and obese cats before and after weight loss. Am. J. Physio.l Regu.l Integr. Comp. Physiol., 2007. 292(1): p. R227-34.
11. Thiess, S., et al., Effects of high carbohydrate and high fat diet on plasma metabolite levels and on i.v. glucose tolerance test in intact and neutered male cats. J. Feline. Med. Surg., 2004. 6(4): p. 207-18.
12. Marshall, R.D., J.S. Rand, and J.M. Morton, Treatment of newly diagnosed diabetic cats with glargine insulin improves glycaemic control and results in higher probability of remission than protamine zinc and lente insulins. J. Feline. Med. Surg., 2009. 11(8): p. 683-91.
13. Laflammme, D., Focus on Nutrition: Cats and carbohydrates: implications for health and disease. Compend. Contin. Educ. Vet., 2010. 32(1): p. E1-3.
14. Bennett, N., et al., Comparison of a low carbohydrate-low fiber diet and a moderate carbohydrate-high fiber diet in the management of feline diabetes mellitus. J. Feline. Med. Surg., 2006. 8(2): p. 73-84.
15. Frank, G., et al., Use of a high-protein diet in the management of feline diabetes mellitus. Vet. Ther., 2001. 2(3): p. 238-46.

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Ethology and veterinary practice: Shadowy feline behaviors

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My first encounter with an animal displaying shadows of normal behavior occurred early in my veterinary medical career. During a routine examination/vaccination appointment, a client told me she had to teach her Himalayan cat how to use the litter box when he was a young kitten.

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Ethology and veterinary practice: Behavior and bond challenges in multi-dog households

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Last month’s article considered the inverse relationship between the amount of energy an animal expends when displaying a perceived problem behavior and the animal’s level of confidence: the less confidence in their ability to cope in a particular physical and mental environment, the more energy these animals will put into their coping strategies.

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Pet nutrition myths: A review of the facts — part 3

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Many pet parents today are interested in learning about optimal nutrition for their furry loved ones, and the first place they seek answers is often on the internet. Unfortunately, there are a variety of blogs and courses published online that may disseminate inaccurate or biased information. There is a lot of information out there, so how does one sort out fact from fiction?

While nutrition science isn’t perfect, it’s the best approach we have to figure out how to best feed our pets. The following review is the last part of a series featuring evidence-based approaches to some common myths found online about pet food and the pet food industry.

Myth No. 21: The pet food industry in North America is largely self-regulated.

The pet food industry is regulated by multiple bodies, including the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF).

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Competition Bureau of Industry Canada and Health Canada are the government agencies involved in the regulation of pet food sold in Canada and abroad. There are, in fact, multiple government agencies monitoring the safety of pet food, making it a highly regulated industry in North America and throughout the world.

Myth No. 22: AAFCO focuses on the bare nutritional minimum because it doesn’t set maximums for every nutrient.

AAFCO recommendations were developed according to scientific research published by the National Research Council (NRC). AAFCO recommendations typically exceed NRC requirements. Therefore, when a food meets AAFCO minimums, in actuality it often exceeds animals’ nutrient requirements as supported by years of scientific research by the NRC (NRC, 2006). Maximum values for nutrients are established when there is a health risk associated with consuming too much of the nutrient.

The optimal intake range varies from nutrient to nutrient, with some nutrients having a very wide range and others a very narrow range. Without understanding ingredient interactions and the unique attributes of a specific animal, it is very difficult to determine what the optimal nutrient intake is for an individual pet.

Myth No. 23: Unless you calculate dry matter percentages on a bag, you cannot tell if a food meets AAFCO minimums.

All pet foods that meet AAFCO nutrient requirements will carry a nutritional adequacy statement. For example, “This food is complete and balanced according to the AAFCO nutrient profiles for Adult Maintenance/Growth/All Life Stages of dogs.”

You can look for this nutritional adequacy statement on pet food labels to determine if a food is complete and balanced without the need to calculate dry matter percentages.

Myth No. 24: If chicken is first on the ingredient panel, it may not actually be the first ingredient due to the inclusion of water.

Ingredients on a package are required to be listed in descending order by weight (AAFCO, 2018). This means that if chicken is the first ingredient, chicken is included in the recipe in the highest quantity according to weight.

This rule is the same for pet food and human food. Fresh meats naturally contain a high percentage of water and this water contributes to the total weight of the meat. Fresh meats in pet foods provide an excellent source of high-quality protein and enhance the flavor of the food.

Myth No. 25: Recipe descriptors (i.e. large breed, senior, etc.) have no nutritional requirements and are simply a ploy to charge more money for a product.

The AAFCO dog and cat nutrient profiles are divided into two categories — growth and reproduction, and adult maintenance. There are not specific nutrient profiles published for different body sizes, breeds, or life stages.

However, it is well established that various characteristics of an animal can affect their nutrient requirements. Large-breed dogs are a good example. AAFCO has set upper limits for calcium that are specific to large-breed puppies to promote healthy bone development (AAFCO, 2018).

Another example is that senior diets are often formulated to have reduced calories and fat compared to adult maintenance diets, to support senior pets’ slowed metabolism and help prevent weight gain. Thus, while there are no published regulations for what certain diet “descriptors” mean, they do provide nutritional benefits specific to pets in those categories and are not simply a ploy to charge more money for a product.

Myth No. 26: Carbohydrates may not be included on the label because pet food companies do not want to report the carbohydrate content of their food.

There are only four nutrients that AAFCO requires on a pet food label — moisture, crude protein, crude fat and crude fiber (AAFCO, 2018). AAFCO does not permit labelling of carbohydrate levels; however, it does permit labelling dietary starch and sugars in the Guaranteed Analysis, which are types of carbohydrates.

AAFCO does not allow a claim of “low carbohydrates,” “low dietary starch,” or “low sugars.” Furthermore, AAFCO has specific rules about making comparison claims for carbohydrate, dietary starch or sugars (i.e., the amount present in one food compared to that in another food). Since there is often a lack of space on packaging for all the required information, pet food companies must be selective about which information to include.

Since carbohydrates are not listed by AAFCO as an essential nutrient, even though the body has a physiological requirement for glucose, carbohydrate is often excluded from the label. However, reputable companies will provide full nutrient information, including carbohydrates, on their website or if contacted directly.

Myth No. 27: To avoid feeding oxidized foods, it is recommended to feed much earlier than the best-before date.

The best-before dates for pet food are not set arbitrarily. Shelf-life stability tests are conducted and peroxide values (which indicate when a food has become rancid) are measured to determine the shelf-life of a food. This testing ensures that the food is stable from the date of manufacture until the best-before date.

Myth No. 28: A dry dog food should contain no more than 30 percent carbohydrate, and a wet dog food should contain no more than 7.5 percent. A dry cat food should contain no more than 15 percent carbohydrate, and a wet cat food should contain no more than 1.5 percent.

Currently, there is no scientific research that identifies an optimal level of carbohydrates for cats or dogs. There is no evidence to substantiate a “30/7.5 percent” or “15/1.5 percent rule.”

There is, however, research to support the fact that both cats and dogs can readily digest and metabolize carbohydrates, even at high levels (Asaro et al., 2018; de-Oliveira et al., 2008). Carbohydrates provide a highly digestible, readily available energy source.

During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the preferred energy source for certain body cells, including the brain. In addition, the consumption of carbohydrates allows protein to be spared for producing and maintaining body tissue, rather than being used for energy production. In humans, some digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth. Dogs do not have this oral enzyme, so carbohydrates are only broken down in the small intestine.

Dietary fiber is a unique type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by a dog’s enzymes. However, it has many benefits. Fiber can help with weight management, improve digestive health and aid in the control of blood glucose levels.

Myth No. 29: Veterinary diets use low-quality ingredients and the biggest difference is the price.

Animals do not need ingredients, they need nutrients. This is especially important for pets with certain diseases that can be improved through dietary modification.

Veterinary diets may contain ingredients that are the same as ingredients in non-therapeutic diets, but the recipes are different to create diets with specific nutrient levels to treat a particular disease state. Veterinary diets often do not meet AAFCO nutrient profiles and therefore must undergo clinical testing to ensure their safety and efficacy. Substituting for a commercial diet that has similar ingredients is not a suitable option for treating animals with disease.

Myth No. 30: Supplemented vitamins and minerals on the ingredient list makes the quality of the food questionable.

Vitamin and mineral supplementation is used in pet foods to balance the nutrient composition and to ensure the healthiest pet foods possible. These supplements act like a “nutrition insurance policy” to provide essential nutrients in the correct ratios required by dogs and cats.

While our goal is to use nutrient-rich ingredients to minimize the need for supplementation, nutrition and food science tells us that optimal nutrition cannot always be achieved by natural food sources alone, making supplementation of pet food necessary.

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Pet nutrition myths: A review of the facts — part 2

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Many pet parents today are interested in learning about optimal nutrition for their furry loved ones, and the first place they seek answers is often on the internet. Unfortunately, there are a variety of blogs and courses published online that may disseminate inaccurate or biased information. There is a lot of information out there, so how does one sort out fact from fiction?

While nutrition science isn’t perfect, it’s the best approach we have to figure out how to best feed our pets. The following review is part two of a series featuring evidence-based approaches to some common myths found online about pet food and the pet food industry.

Myth No. 11: Pet food is not safe because it does not require FDA approval before going to market.

Pet food, like human food, does not need approval by the FDA before going to market, though it is the ethical responsibility of food producers to ensure only approved ingredients are used and safety measures are met. Regulatory agencies review and test foods on the market to make sure they comply with their labels and do not contain contaminants.

However, all food is susceptible to a recall if a regulatory body determines that it poses a hazard to human or animal health. Hundreds of human food recalls occur in North America every year, compared with only a handful of pet food recalls. It is in everyone’s best interest to keep the food supply as safe as possible for ourselves and our pets.

Though mistakes can happen, nutrition and food science technologies developed over the past several decades have created a safe food supply to feed millions of humans and their pets.

Myth No. 12: Extrusion sometimes can’t get rid of all anti-nutritional factors in plant-based ingredients.

The presence of anti-nutritional factors is often raised in relation to plant-based ingredients in pet foods. For example, some people are concerned about lectins (a type of carbohydrate-binding protein) in peas.

Lectins are believed to have evolved to protect the plant by causing intestinal discomfort in animals that eat them. However, lectins must be consumed raw in large quantities to produce this discomfort, and moderate heat treatment, such as that used to make dry and canned pet foods, inactivates the anti-nutritional properties of lectins (Roy et al., 2010).

In fact, controlled amounts of anti-nutritional factors may have health-promoting properties. Data in humans suggests that when properly processed, lectins may help to prevent or treat certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes by helping to control obesity (Roy et al., 2010). Preliminary research has shown that lectins also may have anti-cancer and immune-boosting effects (Roy et al., 2010).

Myth No. 13: Synthetic vitamins are dangerous and do not provide the same benefits as whole foods.

The word “synthetic” does not automatically mean that something is inferior. Vitamin manufacturers have developed sophisticated technologies to produce the most useful and stable forms of individual vitamins, which are well utilized and handled by the body.

Many factors are taken into consideration when designing a vitamin or mineral premix, including the nutrient quality, bioavailability, stability, and physical characteristics. Whether it is a vitamin, mineral, or other nutritional supplement, strict quality control is put in place to ensure consistency and safety.

Furthermore, since many nutrients react with other food components, adequate stabilization protects the nutrient from degradation and is critical to ensuring correct nutrient levels in the food. There is no research to support defining synthetic vitamins as dangerous when fed in appropriate levels for dogs and cats. Any nutrient can be harmful if fed in excessive levels, whether the source is from foods or supplements.

Myth No. 14: Kibble is not very digestible.

A lot of research has been performed to examine the digestibility of kibble and it is in fact highly digestible. Research has demonstrated that the protein, fat and starch digestibility in kibble is upwards of 90 percent in cats and dogs (Asaro et al., 2017; Sá et al., 2013).

Fiber, by definition, is not digested, playing a critical role in digestive health and promoting regularity. Fiber can be particularly important for small breed dogs susceptible to anal glad issues by helping create a bulkier stool.

Myth No. 15: Processed foods have a higher risk of mycotoxin contamination.

The risk of mycotoxin contamination is not related to the processing of pet food; rather, it is related to quality control practices for ingredient sourcing. Testing for mycotoxins in ingredients is a key step in producing healthy and safe food for both pets and humans.

Myth No. 16: Processed foods negatively affect the microbiome.

Many aspects of food and an animal’s overall diet composition affect the microbiome, including nutrient content, prebiotic/probiotic content, and processing methods. Although food processing will impact the microbiome, research in this area is still relatively new and it is unknown whether processing has negative effects.

While processed foods in the human food industry are often viewed unfavorably because many of them are high in fat, salt, and sugar, this is not the case for most pet foods. There are many advantages to processing food. Processing technologies have evolved significantly over the years to create safe, convenient, nutrient-dense foods, and help secure a stable supply.

Processing can increase the digestibility of some macronutrients, allowing them to be more readily absorbed (Tran et al., 2008). Cooking food is a key step in maintaining food safety by destroying harmful pathogens; undercooked meat is a well-known source of pathogens for both humans and animals. Additionally, processing allows manufacturers to incorporate fiber into kibble, which can subsequently act as a food source for the beneficial bacteria in the GI tract, thereby promoting a beneficial microbiome for the animal.

Myth No. 17: Carbohydrates in the diet cause a disruption of the microbiome, and impaired nutrient absorption.

Studies have shown that consumption of a diet high in carbohydrates can increase the evenness (the balance of bacteria type) of gut microbiota in dogs (Li et al., 2017). A lack of dietary carbohydrates results in intestinal bacteria using amino acids as their energy source, leading to an increased production of ammonia, a foul-smelling compound excreted in the urine. Additionally, we are not aware of any research that supports a negative correlation between carbohydrate content and nutrient assimilation in cats or dogs.

Carbohydrates, namely starch and dietary fiber, are important components of pet foods. Although carbohydrates are often considered “fillers,” they do play a critical role in your pet’s body. In particular, carbohydrates provide a highly digestible, readily available energy source. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates are also an important source of essential nutrients.

Fat and carbohydrate are the preferred energy sources for the body, but protein can also be broken down to provide energy. However, animals are unable to store excess amino acids. What is not utilized for tissue maintenance must be dealt with by the liver and kidneys.

When compared to carbohydrates and fats, protein as an energy source is metabolically expensive due to the structure of amino acids. The body must first break protein down into amino acids to be utilized for energy. If the amino acids are not needed by the body for another purpose, the nitrogen portion of the amino acids is converted in the liver to an end-product called urea which is excreted in urine, and the carbon portion of the amino acid is converted to fat.

Nitrogen, from urea and other sources, is an environmental contaminant. Overfeeding protein by reducing carbohydrates not only serves as an inefficient use of energy but also leads to increased nitrogen (i.e. urea) excretion and environmental ammonia levels. The more protein that is fed above requirements, the more urea is excreted. High concentrations of urea in the urine result in yellow and burnt spots in grass.

Myth No. 18: If you feed your puppy less food, they might not get enough calcium.

AAFCO minimum calcium recommendations for puppies have been established based on years of research. Switching to a food with higher calcium can be detrimental to puppies and lead to skeletal diseases, especially in large breed puppies. It is important to continuously monitor your puppy’s weight and body condition score to ensure they are not gaining excess body fat, a sign of overfeeding. Extra calories can increase the rate of growth in puppies which is associated with abnormal bone development.

Myth No. 19: Food should not be frozen as it can increase oxidation and add moisture to food.

Freezing is a centuries-old method of food preservation to prevent microorganism growth. It is one of the safest methods of preservation; without it, tremendous amounts of food would be wasted.

Cold temperature storage helps keep food fresher for longer and keeps food safe by decreasing the water activity and reducing the multiplication, resistance, and survival of potentially harmful organisms (Leistner, 1992). Appropriate packaging prevents the gain or loss of moisture. Moisture loss, or ice crystals evaporating from the surface of a product, can occur during frozen food storage which causes freezer burn and a loss in product quality. However, this is easily prevented with proper packaging.

Fat oxidation is what contributes to food going rancid. Fresh meats and fish spoil quickly at room temperature due to bacterial growth. This can be slowed using refrigeration, but the shelf life only extends by a few days.

On the other hand, freezing greatly extends the length of time a food can be stored. While fat oxidation and a decrease in omega-3 fatty acid content can occur in frozen foods that have been stored for many weeks, there are significant benefits to freezing for maintaining food safety and quality of fresh meats and fish. Freezing at lower temperatures and rapidly freezing food helps to reduce fat oxidation. Since many people and their pets do not live next to an ocean or lake where fresh fish is abundant, freezing helps increase accessibility to these types of nutritious foods.

Myth No. 20: Because tests don’t distinguish between pathogenic and non-pathogenic Salmonella, many of the raw foods that are recalled may not pose a risk for illness.

There are two species of Salmonellaand over 2500 serotypes, or strains. All 2500 serotypes can cause disease in humans; therefore, no strain can be considered non-pathogenic (WHO, 2018).

The decision to recall a food is not done lightly; a pet food company would not recall a food unless they were concerned about its safety for the public. Furthermore, the FDA guidance documents for testing for Salmonella span both Human foods, and “Direct-Human-Contact” animal foods, including pet food. Therefore, the same validation processes that apply to human food also apply to pet food.

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K9s For Warriors: Because together we stand

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This article originally appeared on ConsumersAdvocate.org.

Soldier, take me from this shelter’s cage.
Give me back my life. In return, I’ll cover your back.
I’ll be your canine warrior, your sixth sense.
I’ll stand guard into the night and chase the demons away,
the uninvited, cloaked in night sweats and darkness.

I will help you open your cage of solitude
then walk tall by your side into the light of day.
Together, our faith will rise as tall as your soldier’s pride.
We are now family in this post-9/11 world.
Because together, we stand.

— Bridget Cassidy

Meet James and Dunkin

James Rutland is a 12-year Army veteran who served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004, followed by two more tours in South Korea. He left the military in 2014, suffering from multiple medical conditions related to his service, including mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), sleep apnea, and hearing loss, to name a few.

Most importantly, he suffered from depression and often thought about suicide. Thinking he could do it alone, Rutland tried healing from the trauma on his own. That wasn’t working. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got,” says Rutland.

In 2016, Rutland finally rounded the bend of recovery when he was paired with his service dog, Dunkin. “I started focusing on ‘we’ instead of me,” says Rutland.

He has a semicolon tattoo on his right wrist, a known symbol of taking a pause when thinking about suicide. Unlike a “period” which ends a sentence, the semicolon creates a pause, for the reader, then continues the story. Rutland wears it proudly. “It’s a great conversation starter,” Rutland says.

He goes on to explain that breathing, family, friends, and the program that gave him Dunkin are what keeps him going.

Shari Duval, Founder, with her son, Brett Simon, President of K9s For Warriors

The Program: K9s For Warriors

K9s For Warriors is a BBB-accredited charity organization located in Ponte Vedra, Florida, that has been pairing rescue dogs with traumatized soldiers since 2011. The dogs are trained to be service dogs, specifically performing tasks to quiet the symptoms of war trauma disabilities in soldiers.

“The skillsets our dogs learn help these warriors with anxiety, isolation, depression, and nightmares,” says Shari Duval, the founder of K9s For Warriors. “So, the warriors can function again in public.”

Specifically, the dogs are trained to deal with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or military sexual trauma (MST), as a result of military service on or after 9/11.

Duval started the program after watching her son Brett Simon suffer from PTSD after he returned from Iraq. Simon did two tours, developing PTSD during the first one. Watching her son suffer from the debilitating condition motivated Duval to research alternative treatments to the standard talk therapy and medication, neither of which worked for her son.

“On average, soldiers take 14 meds a day to treat PTSD, TBI, or MST,” says Duval. If treatment is not working, she says veterans are prescribed more and more drugs. “I even knew one soldier who was taking 44 meds per day.”

After two years of researching alternative PTSD treatments, Duval came upon a program that paired service dogs to alleviate their PTSD symptoms in veterans.

According to Simon, “Mom was the one that suggested I use a service dog to deal with my PTSD when nothing else worked.” Duval saw her son’s symptoms begin to improve. She then wanted to help other veterans do the same.

Thus, the K9s For Warriors program was born. With her son’s background in training dogs, including 13 years as a canine police officer, Duval convinced Simon to start the nonprofit together.

To date, the program has rescued more than 850 dogs and 440 military service members, with an astounding 99% program success rate.

Based on a recent Purdue study, the organization’s mission seems to be making a difference in the lives of warriors.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is classified as a mental disorder that develops after a person experiences severe trauma as a result of a traumatic event such as warfare, sexual assault, auto accident, or other severely traumatic events. PTSD symptoms are re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal, and negative changes in beliefs and feelings. The disability manifests itself in depression, anxiety, night terrors, and social embarrassment resulting in isolation. Many individuals have initial symptoms while others can worsen, requiring treatment.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who provide help with a wide array of veteran services ranging from affordable healthcare to low-interest home loans, it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of an event, increased anxiety, or trouble sleeping after experiencing a traumatic event. If these reactions do not go away or worsen, then the individual may have PTSD.

Along with TBI and MST, PTSD is recognized under the American Veterans Aid (AVA), the Department of Justice through the American Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Veteran’s Association of America (VA). The Department of Defense (DoD) is also strongly committed to providing service members and families with access to quality mental health care and resources for all mental health conditions including PTSD.

Image credit: Rand Corporation

Pilot Study Affirms Anticipated Outcome

K9s For Warriors recently partnered with Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine on a pilot study testing the effectiveness of service dogs as a complementary treatment for military members and veterans who suffer from PTSD. Dr. Maggie O’Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction, along with Kerri E. Rodriguez, research assistant, conducted the study and published the findings earlier this year.

The study had a total of 141 participants from the K9s For Warriors’ program or individuals on the program’s waiting list. Half of the program’s participants had service dogs; the other half did not.

The study found that PTSD symptoms were significantly lower in veterans with service dogs, demonstrating that service dogs are associated with lower PTSD symptoms among war veterans. “The initial findings showed lower depression, lower PTSD symptoms, lower levels of anxiety, and lower absenteeism from work due to health issues,” says Dr. O’Haire.

Each morning, she measured levels of cortisol — a stress hormone, in each participant; an increase of the hormone in the morning is indicative of a healthy level or curve. We tend to see a rise in cortisol immediately after waking up. “We call it the morning rise”, says Dr. O’Haire.

Dr. Anantha Shekhar, Director of Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and professor at Indiana University School of Medicine was the lead researcher on the grant at the university. “Service dogs are a great resource for veterans to modulate their own reactions and to cope better with symptoms of PTSD,” says Dr. Shekhar.

Dr. Timothy Hsiao, a Yale graduate, as well as the Program Director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded the NCATS award to Dr. O’Haire as a KL2 Scholar under the CTSA Career Development Award.

“This is an innovative approach to a serious medical issue,” said Dr. Hsiao. “This study highlights the unique skills that the CTSA Program Hubs and their KL2 Scholars bring to address difficult conditions like PTSD.”

Other key findings (in a related study) included a significant reduction in suicidal thoughts, required medication (not suggested by K9s For Warriors), night terrors, and an increase of three to four more hours of sleep per night. That is, in part, due to the fact that the service dogs are trained to wake up the warriors when experiencing night terrors. Purdue University is currently studying this behavior and although it hasn’t been substantiated scientifically, it has been reported by K9s For Warriors anecdotally.

Dr. O’Haire has been granted additional funding from NIH to perform a large-scale study on the efficacy of service dogs as a complementary treatment of PTSD symptoms in military members and veterans. The study is scheduled to be completed later in 2019.

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Ethology and veterinary practice: Shadowy feline behaviors, continued

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Last month’s brief considered two normal behaviors that create problems for some people. It began with a discussion of cats who knew all the behaviors involved in proper litter box elimination but never properly connected them. The brief ended with a brief introduction to feline sucking behaviors related to premature weaning that also may create problems.

This month’s brief looks specifically at cats who suck on people. As with many unusual companion animal behaviors for which personal experience and my veterinary education hadn’t prepared me, my introduction to it came from a new client.

Back in the era of peace, love, and joy in a college town, a dreamy-eyed young woman arrived with her neutered male cat for his annual vaccination. I remember her because, aside from her possibly drug-enhanced mood, there was the large cat with his paws wrapped around her neck sucking on her earlobe and purring.

When I asked her to put the cat down so I could examine him, she smiled uncertainly and asked, “Do I have to?”

I told her it was necessary for her cat’s health and promised to do this as smoothly and quickly as possible. She agreed and, although the cat initially resisted earlobe detachment, he was well-behaved. Finding everything within normal limits, I vaccinated him, she picked him up, and he immediately grabbed her neck and re-attached himself to her earlobe. The cat purred, she smiled, I smiled and wished the owner and cat a good day.

Since then I’ve encountered other people whose cats sucked on their earlobes, as well as fingertips and other body parts. Sometimes these folks shared this information in passing. Other times it came out in social settings when cat owners got into a game of one-upmanship regarding their cats’ strange behaviors.

Whereas these examples involved just sucking displays, my final example of feline behavioral shadows bears mention because it involves multiple behavioral elements. At the same time, though, these are displayed in such an out-of-normal-context manner, it would be easy for someone lacking knowledge of normal feline behavior to miss their significance.

The feline source of this fascinating sequence was a large neutered male of barn cat origin. Rather than being some sort of behavioral basket case, he was an excellent mouser, got along well with a menagerie of pets and livestock of all kinds, plus the human residents and visitors to their home. In short, he seemed like a perfectly normal multitasking farm/pet cat.

Shortly after the cat reached adulthood, his female owner (and avid animal behavior fan) fell asleep on the couch. She awoke to find the cat kneading her upper arm with his front paws while sucking and drooling on her shirt sleeve. However, he simultaneously treaded with his back legs and properly positioned for intromission.

“It was as if he had a split personality,” the cat’s owner later told me. “His front end still thought he was a kitten nursing. But his back end was in mating mode.”

While my friend found her cat’s behavior fascinating from an ethological perspective, I usually hear from people for whom their cats’ once accepted “unnatural” feline behavior has become problematic. “Unnatural” appears in quotation marks because, even though the behaviors themselves are quite natural, people who know nothing about normal feline behavior often perceive — or fear others will perceive — the behaviors as perverse. Worse, they may fear others will perceive them (the cats’ owners) as equally deviant for accepting and even enjoying these displays.

Consequently, practitioners must overcome any communication obstacles these situations create. I find it works best to address this possibility as part of my routine response to all clients whose animals’ behavior causes problem.

First, I remind them that, regardless how bizarre a behavior appears, it represents the most energy-efficient way for their animal to achieve the maximum physical and mental stability in that environment. Put another way, it’s normal behavior for that animal in that physical and mental environment at that time. However, now that circumstances have changed, we need to consider other, more suitable options.

Second, I tell them that I know they did their best, and so did their animals. I tell them this because I believe it.

Obviously, practitioners who find such animal behaviors and the bonds that support them highly embarrassing or repulsive should refer these cases without passing judgement.

What kinds of situations may arise that make once-acceptable, out-of-place behaviors problematic?

Sometimes the cats’ owners develop medical conditions incompatible with their animal’s behavior. In the case of those animals who suck human body parts, abrasions caused by feline suckers may become infected. Other human health problems such as cardiovascular or respiratory problems (including allergies) may be exacerbated by having such animals spending hours hugging or on top of these people with their paws around their owners’ necks.

Logic says that situations like these represent classic One Health problems: the physician addresses the human health problems and the veterinarian addresses — either directly or via referral — the feline behavioral and bond factors that support the behavior.

Fortunately, however, such dramatic cases are few and far between. But maybe it just seems that way. It’s also possible that people don’t mention the animal’s behavior to their physicians or their veterinarians because they see it as a source of comfort when they’re not feeling well. If they also suspect that their physician or veterinarian might criticize them for accepting the animal’s behavior, that would increase their reluctance to mention it.

However, the primary reason people seek help results from changes in the owner’s social lives. Singles who live alone and encourage these behaviors in young animals may want the behaviors stopped when a potential soulmate appears in their lives.

Roommates or partners who accepted the cat’s behavior because they observed its evolution from the time the cat was a kitten may move out. In these cases, the cost to the owner of extinguishing the behavior may seem less than that related to explaining the adult cat’s behavior to people who may or may not accept it.

Whether in response to medical or personal problems, people in both groups want the same thing: They want the behavior extinguished immediately. Of course, we all know that isn’t possible no matter how much we and our clients may desire this. Rare though these cases may be, it only takes one to remind practitioners that, convenient though it may seem to zero out the bond component, we do it at our peril.

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Pet nutrition myths: A review of the facts — part 1

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Many pet parents today are interested in learning about optimal nutrition for their furry loved ones, and the first place they seek answers is often on the internet. Unfortunately, there are a variety of blogs and courses published online that may disseminate inaccurate or biased information. There is a lot of information out there, so how does one sort out fact from fiction? While nutrition science isn’t perfect, it’s the best approach we have to figure out how to best feed our pets.

The following review is part 1 of 3 evidence-based approaches to some common myths found online about pet food and the pet food industry.

Myth No. 1: The first two protein sources in a recipe should be from animals and not plants.

There is no nutritional evidence in the literature to substantiate this claim. Scientifically, it is not about the ingredients — it is about the nutrients the ingredients provide.

Essential amino acids can be provided by both plant and animal proteins. The diet in its entirety and the nutrients provided by the ingredients are more important than the ingredient order and source.

Myth No. 2: High quantities of plant-based protein sources is indicative of a low digestibility food.

Plant-based proteins may be somewhat less digestible than animal protein sources; however, without digestibility trials comparing specific recipes, this statement cannot be substantiated. Pet foods contain a variety of different protein sources which are used to provide adequate amounts of essential and non-essential amino acids.

It is crucial to understand that animals don’t require specific protein sources; rather, they require adequate levels of specific amino acids, which can be supplied by both plant and animal proteins. The body does not differentiate whether the amino acids came from plant- or animal-based ingredients.

Both animal protein and plant protein sources have advantages and disadvantages that pet food formulators must consider when developing a diet. Animal proteins provide a high-quality balance of amino acids and are sources of fat and minerals, but they are less sustainable and can vary significantly in nutrient composition and quality.

On the other hand, plant proteins are less variable in their nutrient composition, are a source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, and are a more environmentally-friendly option (Boye et al., 2010). Although cats are obligate carnivores and require animal-sourced proteins in their diet, complementary plant proteins can be used to provide dogs with all the essential amino acids they require.

Myth No. 3: Supplemental amino acids are indicative of a low-quality animal protein.

Most ingredients, including many animal-based protein sources, are deficient in at least one essential amino acid. Therefore, to ensure amino acid requirements are met, amino acid supplementation is often necessary.

The presence of supplemental amino acids in a food is not indicative of the quality of ingredients included the diets, but rather that the amino acid content of the diet has been balanced to ensure it meets the animal’s requirements.

Myth No. 4: Whole body protein homeostasis (a set of processes that affect the level and stability of protein) is better supported by whole ingredient amino acids rather than synthetic amino acids.

The advantage of using individual synthetic amino acids in dog and cat foods is they can help balance the essential nutrient content of the diet to meet the needs of dogs and cats without providing protein in excess. Furthermore, studies have shown that protein peptides composed of synthetic N-methylamino acids in particular have increased stability and increased resistance to protein degrading enzymes (Aurelio et al., 2004).

Myth No. 5: Omega 3 fatty acids are too unstable to be added to shelf-stable food, and fish oil will quickly oxidize when the bag is opened.

Research has shown that although fish oil can undergo oxidation if not properly handled and stabilized, both artificial and natural antioxidant systems (such as mixed tocopherols, a form of vitamin E) can be effective at stabilizing fish oil to prevent premature oxidation (Aldrich, 2006).

Myth No. 6: Since there is only one hormone to lower blood sugar (insulin),animals are not designed to eat high carbohydrate diets.

Maintaining blood glucose levels within a narrow range is critical for animal well-being. While high blood glucose levels are undesirable (diabetes), low blood glucose can result in a hypoglycemic crisis, which can result in death in extreme situations. The body has sophisticated systems in place to maintain blood glucose within the normal range.

The number of hormones involved in lowering blood sugar is not indicative of the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are an ideal energy source and spare protein to be used for other critical functions.

Healthy animals can handle dietary carbohydrates and evidence does not suggest that a high carbohydrate diet causes diabetes. In fact, glucose levels remain controlled in healthy animals, regardless of the carbohydrate level and source (Asaro et al., 2018; deOliveira et al., 2008).

Myth No. 7: Cats dislike sweet tastes, cannot deal with post-feeding glucose surges, and have a limited ability to use starches.

Research has shown that cats lack the sweet taste receptor so cannot taste sweetness at all; they are neither attracted nor opposed to the taste (Li et al.,2006). Multiple studies have also observed that cats have a prolonged and flat glycemic response and do not commonly experience post-feeding glucose surges (Asaro et al., 2018).

Scientific evidence demonstrates that both dogs and cats can readily digest and metabolize carbohydrates, with no negative impact on the digestion and absorption of other macronutrients (Asaro et al., 2018; deOliveira et al., 2008).

Myth No. 8: Additional supplementation is essential in a processed kibble diet.

By providing a kibble diet that is complete and balanced according to AAFCO, the food contains all the necessary ingredients required to provide optimal nutrition to an animal. Therefore, additional supplementation is not necessary and should be done with caution.

Myth No. 9: Calcium supplementation is recommended for puppies.

Not only is this incorrect, but supplementing puppies with calcium can be very dangerous. Excess calcium supplementation while the animal is still growing can lead to skeletal malformations (Goedegebuure & Hazewinkel, 1986).

Over-supplementation of calcium is especially concerning for large and giant breed puppies. To address this, AAFCO has recently implemented a maximum allowable amount of calcium in foods for large breed puppies of 1.8 percent on a dry matter basis (DMB) (AAFCO, 2018). The minimum calcium requirement for puppies is 1.2 percent DMB, so the optimal calcium range for large breed puppies is relatively narrow and must be carefully controlled to ensure healthy bone growth and development.

Myth No. 10: Senior dogs should eat diets with at least 30 percent protein.

There is currently no distinction made in protein requirements for senior dogs compared to adult dogs; senior dogs fall under the category of adult maintenance according to the AAFCO nutrient profiles. High protein diets may not be ideal, or even suitable, for all dogs.

When protein is consumed in excess of the body’s requirements, it is broken down into nitrogen-containing compounds and filtered out as waste in the urine. Healthy dogs can handle extra protein, but dogs with renal insufficiency, which is more common amongst older dogs, may benefit from a lower protein diet.

Many of the clinical signs of late stage renal insufficiency, such as vomiting and lack of appetite, result from of a build-up of these nitrogenous end products. Feeding a diet that is restricted in protein allows the kidneys to work less and prevents an accumulation of these waste products. However, high quality protein ingredients that provide all essential amino acids in the amount pets require is recommended to help reduce the quantity of waste that the kidneys must eliminate.

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