Keep Your Pets Safe This Easter

Most responsible pet owners know that pets and chocolate don’t mix.  But there are a few other Easter related pet hazards that dog and cat owners should know about.  Here’s a quick rundown on the most common Easter items that could harm your pet.


Chocolate is toxic to our pets and should always be kept away from curious or hungry dogs, cats, and other animals.  Why is chocolate so dangerous?  Besides caffeine, chocolate contains another stimulant called theobromine.  These substances can cause rapid heart rate, agitation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in pets.


The popular Easter lily poses a serous health risk to cats.  Other types of lilies you may bring into your home at Easter are also toxic.  These include tiger and stargazer lilies.  While the exact toxin in lilies hasn’t been identified, a cat that ingests even a small bite of any part of a lily plant (leaf, flower, stem, pollen) can develop severe, sometimes fatal, kidney failure.

Easter Grass

Those thin strands of plastic grass used to line Easter baskets can pose a health risk to pets.  If ingested by dogs, cats, or other animals, they can become lodged in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract and cause an obstruction.  Surgery may be required to remove the blockage and repair intestinal damage.

Easter Dinner

In addition to chocolate, it’s important to keep an eye on your pets as you prepare Easter dinner and serve it at the table.  Remember that common human foods can be harmful to pets.  Here’s a partial list:

  • Alcohol
  • Bread dough
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raw poultry and poultry bones

You can refer to the Pet Poison Helpline’s complete list of pet toxins for more information.



Why Euthanasia Drugs are Being Found in Pet Food

You may have seen some stories in the news lately about small amounts of euthanasia drugs getting detected in some popular pet food brands.  How does this type of drug end up in dog and cat food?  The answer is obvious but may come as a surprise to many pet owners.

A recent article on the website Gizmodo explains why the sedative pentobarbital, which is commonly used in euthanasia, has been found in at least 27 brands of pet food.  No, pet food companies are not deliberately adding it to their food, but it is ending up in food via third-party suppliers of ingredients used in the food.

Veterinary experts explain that the pentobarbital is coming from euthanized animals, usually horses, that go from farms to animal rendering operations, and eventually, to pet food manufacturers.  The FDA has been aware of this issue since the 1990s, so pentobarbital in pet food is not new.

This recent spotlight on the issue has caused many pet owners to wonder where the meat used in their animals’ food is actually coming from.  The pet food industry says that most makers source meat from livestock slaughtered in the same facilities used for human food.

The problem occurs when some of their suppliers use cheap ingredients as a way to cut expenses, such as euthanized and rendered farm animals like horses, as evidenced by the pentobarbital.

The drug amounts in the food are very small, and although there is a new awareness of the issue, it is unlikely that it will ever completely disappear from all pet foods, given the economic realities of the pet food industry.

What can you do to ensure that your pet is eating quality food?  Talk to your vet about the best pet food options for your individual pets, educate yourself on how to read and understand pet food labels, and be sure to keep track of all pet food recalls and withdrawals via the FDA’s pet food recall webpage.


The Many Scientific Reasons that Explain Why Cats are Finicky Eaters

A recent article in The New York Times outlined the different biological and behavioral reasons that explain why many cats are such discriminating eaters.  Turns out your cat isn’t being difficult, she’s just being a cat!

Here are some underlying reasons why your cat may be turning his nose up at dinner:

  • As solitary hunters and eaters, cats tend to eat more slowly and carefully than dogs.  Dog are pack animals and group competition for food makes them eat quickly.
  • Even though a cat’s sense of smell is weaker than a dog’s, it is still very keen, and an unappealing smell can turn your cat off to his food.
  • A cat’s teeth are more well-suited to ripping and tearing meat, not grinding, so wet food is easier to eat than dry food.  Many cats swallow pieces of dry kibble whole, which can then be vomited back up.

  • Cats are true carnivores, so their taste receptors are not geared towards a wide variety of food types, like ours.  Cats naturally prefer protein and are indifferent to sweets and carbohydrates.
  • Cats do have very sensitive taste receptors for bitter foods, however, as anyone who’s ever eaten citrus around a cat can tell you!

Interested in learning more about proper feline feeding and nutrition?  Check out this article from Cornell’s Feline Health Center.


New Study Outlines Hazards of Raw Meat Diet for Dogs and Cats

Thinking about switching your pet to a raw meat based diet (RMBD)?  A new study of commercial RMBDs available in pet stores and supermarkets found a significant number of harmful bacteria and parasites in these pet foods.

The results, published this month in the journal Veterinary Record, found the following rates of bacterial contamination in 35 commercial RMBDs from 8 different brands tested:

  • Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 : 23%
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases-producing E coli : 80%
  • Listeria monocytogenes : 54%
  • Other Listeria species : 43%
  • Salmonella : 20%

Two parasites, Sarcocystis cruzi and Sarcocystis tenella were found 11% of the products. The parasite Toxoplasma gondii was found in 6% of the samples.

Researchers found that the large number of bacteria and parasites in these commercially prepared RMBDs pose a health threat to both pets that consume the food, and humans via handling and exposure to contaminated food.

They also note that dogs and cats on a RMBD are more likely to become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria than those that consume cooked food.

If you choose to feed your pet a RMBD, it’s important to be aware of the health risks of a raw diet, and how to handle these foods safely.

To learn more about the possible dangers, you can read the American Veterinary Medical Association’s position paper on feeding pets a raw food diet HERE.


How Vets Talk to Clients About Feline Obesity

Obesity is a very common health problem in pets.  Is your dog or cat overweight…and if so, has your veterinarian had a serious discussion with you about the health risks associated with obesity in pets?  A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science examined how a group of vets in Ontario, Canada talked to clients about their overweight cats.

The findings show that many veterinarians tend to avoid potentially uncomfortable conversations about the less than ideal feeding practices of clients who have overweight cats, and they also often do not have serious discussions about weight management.  Vets are more likely to skirt around the issue to avoid insulting clients.  Their strategies include the use of humor, and addressing the pet directly (i.e. “You sure love your food, don’t you Fluffy?”).

The article notes that many owners of obese pets try to “normalize” their pet’s weight and minimize the seriousness of the problem.  This can be especially true for cats, as they tend to see the vet less frequently than dogs, so there are fewer opportunities for discussions between a vet and owner about feline obesity.

The researchers examined nearly 300 videos of vet-client interactions involving feline patients.  The results show that only a small percentage of the vets had any discussions about the causes and prevention of obesity.  In fact, most of the conversations were generated by a handful of the vets who were more likely to bring up the issue.

What were some of the communication problems identified?  When talking about specific kinds of cat food, the vets were more likely to mention specific brands’ quality and nutritional content, and the clients tended to focus on shapes and colors.  They often could not name the brands they used and said things like the food was “from the natural pet store.”

If clients seemed resistant to talking about feeding habits, the vets often resorted to humor when addressing a cat’s weight.  Talking to the pet as a way of communicating with the client was a common strategy.  This “patient-directed speech” would often take the form of a compliment on the cat’s appearance (nice fur, for example) and then joking conversations with the animal (“You’re not missing many meals, are you?”).

What can be done to improve vet-client communication about pet obesity?  The authors recognize that addressing pet obesity with clients can be a sensitive issue for vets.  However, they stress that there is “a need for a dynamic and individualized response to obesity management in veterinary medicine.”  Pet owners can be resistant to measures like reducing food intake and eliminating treats, but vets need to be more proactive in exploring their clients’ attitudes, asking questions, and providing clear explanations and plans in order to improve communication about pet obesity management and prevention.

And of course, we pet owners should talk honestly and openly with our vets about how we are feeding our dogs and cats, especially if they are overweight.  Awareness about the risks of pet obesity and what we as owners can do about it is important.  Here’s a great website to learn more about pets and weight: