FDA Issues Updated Warning About Dog Bone Treats

The US Food and Drug Administration has recently issued a revised warning about giving your dog packaged “bone treats.”  While there are also dangers in giving your dog real bones you get from the butcher, the FDA is emphasizing the health risks of processed and packaged bone treats.

These bone treats are sold at many brick and mortar and online retail outlets.  They may be labelled as pork femur bones, ham bones, rib bones, or smoked knuckle bones.  The bones are dried by smoking or baking, and contain preservatives and flavorings.

What are the health risks of bone treats?  The FDA has received reports from veterinarians and pet owners on the following issues:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Choking
  • Cuts and other wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Risk of death (15 cases of dogs dying after eating bone treats have been reported)

Other problems with the treats themselves, such as mold and splinters, have also been reported.

The FDA recommends these common-sense tips to keep your dog safe around bones and bone treats:

  • Keep dishes of your food scraps that contain bones (especially small bones like chicken) out of reach of pets.
  • Monitor your dog around the trash if you throw away bones or poultry carcasses.
  • Talk to your vet about safe chew toy options (like Kongs) as a replacement for bones and bone treats.
  • Remember to supervise your dog around all chew toys and treats to prevent accidental ingestion.

 

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UC Davis Researchers Discover the Genetics Behind Disc Disease in Dogs

Many FACE financial grants for critical veterinary assistance are awarded to owners of dogs with a serious spinal condition called intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).  IVDD is a major cause of pain and paralysis in certain dog breeds, especially those with short legs like the Dachshund, French Bulldog, Corgi, Basset Hound, and Pekingese.

In IVDD, the discs in a dog’s spine can degenerate over the course of time or suddenly herniate, depending on the type of IVDD the dog suffers from.  IVDD is a painful condition that often requires surgery and physical rehabilitation.

Recently, researchers at the University of California Davis have discovered the genetic mutation responsible for chondrodystrophy, which is a genetic trait that many IVDD-prone breeds share.  It’s characterized by changes in bone growth, leading to short long bones (legs) and premature spinal disc calcification and degeneration.

The scientists report that dogs with IVDD are 50 times more likely to have this mutation.  The gene identified, the FGF4 retrogene, was found to play a key role in bone development for dogs with chondrodystrophy.  FGF abnormalities in humans can lead to conditions like dwarfism.

Identification of this mutation can help control the incidence of IVDD in dogs.  The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory offers two genetics tests for breeders and owners of short-legged breeds prone to IVDD.  Breeders can test for IVDD risk in their dogs, identifying those that are carriers of 0, 1, or 2 copies of the gene.

 

November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Has your pet been diagnosed with cancer?  One in four dogs and one in five cats will develop cancer in their lifetimes.  Experts say that the number of pet cancer cases is rising, as advances in veterinary medicine are increasing the lifespans of our companion animals.

Here are a few important facts about cancer for all pet owners.

Common symptoms of cancer in pets

  • Abnormal lumps or swollen areas
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Bloody discharge
  • Difficulty breathing or eliminating
  • Lameness

Most common pet cancers

  • Mammary gland tumors. These are more common in dogs than cats.
  • Skin tumors. Tumors in cats tend to be more malignant than in dogs; some canine tumors can be benign.
  • Head and neck cancer. Especially common in the mouth and nose.
  • Lymphoma. A common cancer in both dogs and cats.  Lymphoma in cats is linked to second-hand smoke exposure.
  • Bone cancer. Older, large breed dogs are especially at risk.

Pet cancer prevention tips

  • Spay and neuter your pet. This greatly reduces the risk of cancer in the mammary glands and sex organs.
  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Obesity can cause many health problems, including cancer.
  • Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth and visit the vet for regular oral exams.
  • Keep pets, especially those with white fur, out of the sun to avoid the risk of skin cancer.

For more information, check out this article from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

 

How to Safely Store Your Pet’s Medicine and Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has great food and drug safety tips for humans, but did you know they also have a whole section on pets?  It’s important to store your pet’s medications in a secure place to avoid the hazards of an accidental overdose.  Your pet’s food and treats should also be stored properly to avoid spoilage and contamination.

Here are a few practical tips on pet food and drug storage from the FDA:

Pet Medications

  • Keep pet medications in their original containers with their original labels. This is important for drug dosage and identification information, as well as pet ID in a multi-pet household.
  • Keep pet medications safely out of reach. Remember that cats can jump onto high places and dogs have a good nose for flavored meds.
  • Child-proof drug containers are not necessarily pet-proof, especially if your dog is a chewer.
  • Store pet meds in a completely different place than human meds to avoid an accidental mix-up.
  • Keep medications for other animals such as horses and pocket pets away from dogs and cats.
  • Dispose of expired or unused pet medications in the same way you dispose of human drugs. Mix them with an unappealing substance (used kitty litter or coffee grounds), and place in the trash in a sealed bag.

Pet Food and Treats

  • Store your pet food in the original container. You will need the information on the container in the event of a pet food recall.  Having the lot number is especially important in a recall.
  • If you use plastic containers to store kibble or treats, it’s a good idea to store it in the bag, or at least keep the bag around so that you have the important information on the label.
  • Storage containers for pet food should be clean and dry, with a tightly-fitting lid.
  • Wash and dry the container before you add another bag of food. Fat residue can become rancid.
  • Store all pet food in a cool, dry place. The temperature should be under 80 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid spoilage.
  • Refrigerate or throw out uneaten wet food.
  • Wash and dry pet food and water bowls (and utensils) daily.
  • Keep food and treats in a safe location so your pet won’t get into it and binge.

 

Early Childhood Exposure to Cats Reduces the Risk of Asthma

Scientists have known that children who grow up around cats, dogs, and other animals tend to have stronger immune systems than children who have little exposure to pets and farm animals.  But a recent Danish study of 400 toddlers has found that early childhood exposure to cats can greatly reduce a child’s risk of developing asthma.  The research was summarized by The Telegraph newspaper.

Researchers studied a group of young children from birth to 5 years.  A third of the children had a genetic variation that predisposes them to developing asthma in childhood.  One in three people in the general population have this genetic variation.  The researchers found that exposure to cats at a young age significantly reduced the likelihood that these high-risk kids would develop asthma.

Why?  The researchers believe that the presence of a cat somehow prevents this particular gene from switching on and triggering asthma.  They suspect it might not be the cat itself, but possibly bacteria or other microorganisms the cat brings into the home.

This asthma gene is also thought to be associated with bronchitis and pneumonia.  Toddlers exposed to cats also showed a decreased risk for developing these two diseases, in addition to asthma.

While exposure to dogs in early life also can reduce the risk of asthma in children, exposure to cats had the most significant impact on children with the genetic variation that is the strongest risk factor for the development of childhood asthma.