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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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.

 

Scientists Study Wolf Puppies to Learn About the Domestication of Dogs

Experts agree that dogs evolved from a now-extinct species of wolf over 15,000 years ago.  The move from wild predator to human companion began with a practical realization on the part of a few of those wolves…that if they overcame their fear and hung around our settlements they’d get an easy meal of leftover food scraps.

But how did the first wolves understand that living near people would be beneficial to them?  And how did they pass that knowledge on to subsequent generations?  An intensive study of modern wolf puppy behavior is providing scientists with evidence on the keys to domestication.

An in-depth article and accompanying video in The New York Times about a wolf puppy study taking place in Canada describes some important clues to how wolves became dogs.

Researchers working with wolf pups discovered that if the pups experience close human contact when very young, they can overcome their natural fear response, which kicks in as they mature.  There is a critical period in a wolf puppy’s development that determines if a pup is afraid or curious when exposed to new things.

The researchers are studying the puppies’ DNA as well as their behavior to better understand the genetic basis for the development of anxiety vs. sociability in wolves.  The research could ultimately lead to a greater understanding of dog (and human) development as well.

Check out the informative — and adorable! — video here:

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000005162472