Other animals can contract Swine Flu

kittyI only include this as a point of interest – I don’t mean to spread info that might make people feel unduly frightened of something that is of very low risk or occurrence so far, but it is worth mentioning. Certainly, avoiding communicable respiratory diseases are another thing to add to the long list of benefits to keeping cats inside. Also, if you are sick with swine flu, it’s worth keeping an eye out for symptoms in your pets.

The AVMA issued this statement:

November 4, 2009 — A 13-year old cat in Iowa developed signs of a respiratory infection after several people in the household were ill. Preliminary testing was positive for 2009 H1N1 on October 29, and the results were confirmed on November 2. This is the first report of a cat infected with H1N1. The cat has recovered from its illness.

To date, this is the first cat confirmed infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus. Two ferrets, one in Oregon and one in Nebraska, have also recently been confirmed infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus. The Nebraska ferret died, but the Oregon ferret has recovered. To date, there is no evidence that the ferrets or the cat passed the virus to people.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Feline Practitioners are reminding pet owners that many viruses can pass between people and animals, so this was not an altogether unexpected event. We are advising pet owners to monitor their pets’ health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.

Happy Halloween! Fun Stuff and Tips


Happy Halloween!
Fun Stuff
check out this link to cute dog breed stencils for your pumpkin carving.
The “real” link is here, but I can’t figure out where the stencils are for that one. Maybe you can.

Beware of Toxic Things on Halloween

Don’t forget to be on guard for dogs getting into that Halloween Candy stash! Chocolate isn’t the only thing that’s toxic to dogs; macadamia nuts, raisins, and the sweetener xylitol are all on the list of things that can be poisonous to dogs, but the wrappers and other decorations can also cause problems when ingested. Check out this link to other household items that are toxic to dogs, and what to do if your dog gets into them.

Behavioral Tips

Behaviorally, make sure that if your dog is stressed out by strangers, to have him in a secure area of the house where he won’t be plagued by constant scary monsters ringing the doorbell. Conversely, if you’re up for it this is a great time to work on door manners with a dog that isn’t frightened just excited.  Doorbell rings, dog on leash sits, door opens, dog and costumed kid both get their own treats. Lots of repetitions available on Halloween equals lots of chances to practice how to act when people come to the door.

-Practice this a day or two beforehand with someone familiar that rings the doorbell, rehearsing the sit quietly while the door opens routine 8 or 10 times (first time is hard, then it gets easy as it’s the same person over and over. This lets the dog get better and better at the behavior because you’ve removed the novelty of someone at the door)
– work on a leash for control, but reward the sitting calmly without lots of yanking. The familiar person can hang out on the step for a few minutes while you work on that.
– on Halloween, have two people work the door, one for kid treats and one for working with the dog
– when the doorbell rings, don’t jump up. Walk calmly to the door.

If you have a new puppy this can be a good socialization exercise – monsters = good treats for puppy! Encourage them to say hi to the funny monsters, but don’t force them into it – you want socialization exercises to be positive. If you feel like it’s safe, have the monsters offer the puppy yummy dog jerky or pieces of cheese. Soon the puppy will think people in costume are a good thing!

Excellent Video about crystals and stones

This is a very nice clear description of how to protect the health of your pet’s bladder, and of the causes and prevention of stones and crystals in the bladder.

I found it on one of my favorite sites, written by holistic vet, Dr. Karen Becker and she made the excellent additional point that in the case of cats, it’s also very important that they get extra moisture in their diets, as they have evolved to get most of their moisture from the prey they eat. They generally don’t drink enough to offset the fact that their primary diet is often dry, putting their kidneys in a mild state of dehydration for years at a time. Combined with feeding a diet high in carbs, it’s no wonder why bladder and kidney problems are so prevalent for cats.

See these links to read more about these issues in cats (though the info is useful for dog owners as well):

A good explanation of why cats on dry diets need more moisture (this whole page is good actually, not just this section)

Tips for getting your cat to drink more water

Mostly Garbage Pet Food

You might have seen this on SNL – we often think this is the rationale used by companies that make many grocery store brands of dog food

Dog stuck in crate highlights rare risk of spot-on flea treatment

advantageA dog in Ontario Canada was given a flea treatment with Advantage and put to bed in his plastic kennel. An ingredient in the Advantage dissolved the plastic which resulted in the dog becoming stuck to his crate and unable to get out. The crate and dog both had to be transported to the vet to get him out. Read the full story here.

Related articles:
Nematodes for outdoor flea control

Deaths associated with some kinds of top spot flea control


Nitrates in Food Should be Avoided


Did you know that a recent study found that children eating more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia??

Here’s a two part posting about the topic of nitrates in food. First, I was frustrated the other day when a customer I’ve never seen before came in looking for the Natural Balance Rolls of soft food/treat that people often use for training and Kong stuffing. I told him that we didn’t have that particular brand, as that one is preserved with Nitrates. He said “I’m a vet, and I’ve never heard of anything bad about nitrates”.  As I told him about how it was a suspected carcinogen, he cut me off with “do you have sources you can site?” Well I did, but I had a store full of customers and he was in a huge rush. He left without those sources, and without leaving me his e-mail so I could send them later, and I’m sure he left thinking I was an overreacting silly person. However, I feel like if an ingredient is strongly suspected to be carcinogenic, and there are any studies showing evidence to that effect, then I would hope that A) vets might have heard of this before, and B) wouldn’t it be wise to avoid ingredients like these altogether, just in case? I know a lot of things can be carcinogenic, and some of them are out of our control. But food and treat ingredients can be controlled, and there are certainly lots of great alternatives.

There wasn’t time to change his opinion, but it made me think I should address it here on the blog. It also made me think of the fact that I never did write directly to Merrick Pet Foods about the use of nitrates in the treats that we wish we could sell except for the Nitrates (their sausage treats that correspond to the flavors of their great canned food line.) I was pretty disappointed with their response.  Here’s my letter:

“Hello – we’ve told our reps before, but I’m not sure I’ve actually written directly to you about this. I’d just like to say how sad we were to find out that those sausages that you make that correspond with the can flavors are made with nitrates added. We were so excited to learn about them before they came out, and had placed a big ISO, but when we got the ingredient list, we cancelled it. We won’t stock anything in our store that has nitrates, as they combine with amines in meat during the cooking process to form carcinogenic compounds that have been associated with multiple forms of cancers in humans. I got stricter about them when recent studies showed the strong link between
hotdogs with nitrates and leukemia in children.
This is from the cancer prevention coalition:
“Peters et al. studied the relationship between the intake of certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children from birth to age 10 in Los Angeles County between 1980 and 1987. The study found that children eating more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia. A strong risk for childhood leukemia
also existed for those children whose fathers’ intake of hot dogs was 12 or more per month.
Researchers Sarusua and Savitz studied childhood cancer cases in Denver and found that children born to mothers who consumed hot dogs one or more times per week during pregnancy has approximately double the risk of developing brain tumors. Children who ate hot dogs one or more times per week were also at higher risk of brain cancer.

Bunin et al, also found that maternal consumption of hot dogs during pregnancy was associated with an excess risk of childhood brain tumors.”

I really can’t bring these products into my store when I even have the smallest doubt about the safety of nitrate consumption. I know these products are going to be delicious, and that dogs will eat a lot of them! I hope that in the future you’ll consider reformulating these sausages to be naturally preserved, or shrink-wrapped in a way that
would not necessitate nitrate usage for preservation.

Thank you for your other great products”

This was the response that made me think that they didn’t even read my letter closely:

Hello Christine,

Thanks for taking the time to e-mail us and let us know about your concerns. Small amounts of the Sodium Nitrate are intentionally added to Sausages to prevent botulism.  It is in bacon and just about every sliced lunch meat out there along with hot dogs, bologna, etc for this very same reason. This is the only one of our products that contains Sodium Nitrate, and is required for this reason.

I am very sorry for and inconvenience this may have caused.
Merrick Pet Care”

If you like those sausages but are concerned about nitrates, go to http://www.merrickpetcare.com/ and let them know.

If you like hotdogs and bacon but you don’t want to eat nitrates, , check out the delicious turkey hotdogs (and pork bacon) from Applegate Farms.