Dog Food Myth Buster

By Robert J. Weiner VMD DABVP (Canine and Feline)
County Animal Hospital New City, New York

Dog food is a multi billion-dollar industry worldwide. Pet food commercials are aimed at the dog owner’s heart. Dog food marketing targets nutritional myths–unquestioned answers. Here are four myths busted:

Grain Free” Grain free does not exclude rice, which is negotiably not any better than corn or barley, for example. “Gluten free” is another term used. Celiac disease, an allergy to gluten, is extremely rare in dogs. Dogs that do have food allergies are usually allergic to meat (beef, chicken, pork) or milk protein. Less typically the wheat or grain.

“No By-products” By-products include organ meats and bone meal that are valuable sources of nutrients. A diet composed of 100% muscle meat would be unbalanced for your dog.

No Preservatives Added “Added” is the operative word. The manufacturer may not have added preservatives to the ingredients obtained but you can be sure that the ingredients were preserved. Dog food is made of protein, fat and carbohydrate. Dry dog food sits in a bag in your closet for a long time before you use it. You don’t refrigerate it or freeze it. Before you bought it, it was shelved at the store, was transported in a non-refrigerated truck and prior to that, it was at a distributor. The dating on the package is many months (at least). How long would a hamburger last in your closet?

“Guaranteed Analysis” This is a list of what the minimum % of protein and the maximum % of fat is, for example, but does not enable one to knowledgeably compare one diet to another. To do so you really need the nutritional analysis on a caloric basis. These are available from most companies by request and are published by some companies and distributed to veterinarians. Your veterinarian can calculate the number of calories your dog needs. By consulting the nutritional analysis of a given diet on a caloric basis the exact number of grams of important nutrients that your dog would actually consume can be determined.

Your veterinarian is the trained expert in canine nutrition, knows your dog’s health issues best and is the most qualified to advise you on your dog’s nutritional needs.

As published in the January issue of New City Neighbors Magazine

The Canine Flu(s) Blues

By Robert J. Weiner VMD DABVP (canine and feline)
County Animal Hospital, New City, New York

If you are traveling on vacation it is possible your dog will also be vacationing at a boarding facility. Perhaps your dog enjoys meeting other dogs in the park or goes to doggie day care. If so, it is likely that at some point your dog will bring home “infectious canine cough”, also known as kennel cough. Infectious canine cough is not caused by a single agent and veterinarians cannot immunize against all possible causes. We do vaccinate against the most serious agents. These include Bordetella bronchiseptica (same genus as the bacteria that causes whooping cough in children), canine distemper virus and canine parainfluenza 3 virus.

Similar to the situation with humans the list of infectious agents that affect our dogs is constantly evolving. In 2004 veterinarians first became aware of canine influenza. At that time a strain of Influenza A, H3N8, was identified. This was an equine flu virus that mutated and was able to infect dogs. It was isolated from Greyhound race tracks in Florida. Dogs had no prior experience with influenza and as a result the virus spread rapidly across the country in epidemic fashion. Many dogs died. A vaccine was developed. H3N8 has pretty much disappeared except for the Northeast where self-limiting outbreaks occasionally occur. In 2015 an outbreak of a flu-like illness occurred in the high-density animal shelters in Chicago. The Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University veterinary college identified a new strain of Influenza A, H3N2. This outbreak has continued in the Midwest and this year there have been outbreaks of H3N2 in Florida, Texas and North Carolina. A few cases have been reported in Chemung County in New York State. This newer strain is a bigger problem than H3N8 because dogs shed the virus and are contagious for a much longer period of time. As of the date of this writing (August 2017) it has not been reported in Rockland County, but one imagines that it will arrive here eventually. There is now a vaccine for H3N2 and a bivalent vaccine that immunizes against both strains, which makes sense in the Northeast. Canine influenza is not contagious to humans, but H3N2 can affect cats. There is no influenza vaccine for felines.

Veterinarians generally recommend influenza vaccine for those dogs whose lifestyle frequently puts them in contact with other dogs.

For more information about canine influenza see: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Control-of-Canine-Influenza-in-Dogs.aspx

As published in the October 2017 issue of New City Neighbors Magazine