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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
First Canine Influenza Vaccine
U.S. Department of Agriculture approves protection against the contagious virus.

Lately the flu, specifically the swine variety, has been on everyone’s minds. While the H1N1 swine flu doesn’t pose much of a threat to our pets, there is a risk of contracting the H3N8 dog flu, a highly contagious respiratory illness. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it had approved the first vaccine for the canine influenza. The vaccine does not always prevent infection, but it decreases the severity and duration of the illness.

Canine influenza was first identified in 2004 when pneumonia killed a third of racing greyhounds in Florida. Today, the flu has been found in 30 states and the District of Columbia, mostly in close quarters like animal shelters and pet stores. The flu has hit Florida, New York, Philadelphia, and Colorado the hardest.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, one of the early researchers of the virus, estimates that over 10,000 dogs have been infected in the United States, a hefty number but small compared to the nation’s 70 million dogs. At one time there was a fear that the flu would kill one to ten percent of the nation’s dogs. 

Most dogs have no immunity to the dog flu, so it has the potential to spread quickly. The virus can be passed through a water bowl or person’s clothes, no direct dog-dog contact is necessary. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that dogs can transmit the virus to humans.

Symptoms, which may not show up until several days after contracting the virus, include coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. However, a laboratory test is the only conclusive way to know if you dog has canine influenza. Most pups make a full recovery, but if it progresses to pneumonia, it can be life-threatening. Unlike human influenza, the dog flu infections occur year round.

I try to minimize the number of vaccines that my pets receive. For instance, my crew gets blood titers instead of boosters at their annual checkup. My dogs seem to be in the moderate risk group -- I never board them, but they do have a lot of contact with other canines at obedience school and agility trials. I’m leaning towards not vaccinating since the overall risk doesn’t seem high, but I plan on consulting with my veterinarian to get his opinion before making a final decision. 

News: Guest Posts
Study Finds High Fluoride Levels in Dog Food
Linked to hormone disruption, thyroid problems and bone cancer in humans.

A new study by the Environmental Working Group in Washington D.C. found fluoride levels 2.5 times greater than permitted for human consumption in eight out of ten dog food brands tested by an independent lab.

“While scientists have not determined how much fluoride is safe for dogs,” the EWC report states, “they have found that people who consume excessive fluoride often develop mottled teeth (dental fluorosis) and weakened bones, leading to more fractures. High fluoride consumption is also associated with reproductive and developmental system damage, neurotoxicity, hormonal disruption, and bone cancer.”

Although the study does not identify the brands by name, the EWG recommends avoiding dog food that contains bone meal and meat byproducts.

Read the full report.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Losing Puppies to Disease
Canine distemper strikes close to home.

Some friends recently lost two puppies to canine distemper. During the time when first one puppy, and then the second was succumbing to the disease, they were caught up in a painful swirl of grief, loss, information-seeking, medication use, and continuous attempts to comfort the puppies, their children and each other.

Obviously, it is painful to lose a dog of any age, but there is a particular kind of unbearable heartbreak associated with the loss of a puppy.

Have you lost a dog prematurely to disease? What happened and what would you like other people to know to try to prevent it happening to them? Do you have any wise or comforting words if, despite all the best efforts, it happens anyway?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
FDA Approves the First Canine Cancer Drug
Palladia offers options for treating the second most common canine tumor.

Earlier this year, I attended an agility trial in New Jersey that was raising money for canine cancer research. Decorating the arena were pictures of dogs who had cancer at some point in their lives. There were more than 100 photo montages covering every inch of free space. 

During an intermission tribute, handlers were asked to raise their hand if they ever had a dog affected by cancer. I was shocked to see well more than half the audience with their hand up and soon learned that canine cancer effects one out of every three dogs.

Since then, two of my friends found tumors on their dogs, one benign and one malignant. Thankfully, both were successfully removed, but the topic has stayed on my mind. So I was excited to hear that this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug developed specifically for the treatment of canine cancer. Palladia, an oral drug, works by cutting off the blood supply to mast cell tumors, the second most common tumor in dogs.

Palladia will be available next year through veterinary oncologists and internists. There are a number of side effects and, like any drug, will have its limitations. But Palladia is a huge step in the right direction for curing this horrible disease.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
WebMD for Dogs
DoggedHealth helps pet lovers diagnose canine health problems.

If you’re like me, there are certain websites that you don’t know how you ever lived without. One of the first that comes to mind is the popular medical diagnostic site, WebMD.

Finally, a similar resource has been created for canines. Earlier this year, DoggedHealth debuted the Diagnostic Dog as an information resource to empower pet lovers to make educated healthcare decisions for their four-legged family members. Users can click on a map of the canine body to access articles about related health problems. All content is written by a veterinarian or a dog trainer, depending on the topic. 

I’m looking forward to being able to refine searches by symptom (a WebMD feature), which DoggedHealth is in the process of developing. Diagnostic Dog certainly won’t replace my veterinarian, but it’s a great resource for increasing my knowledge before I step into the office. Of course like WebMD, Diagnostic Dog has the potential to make worried pet parents a bit paranoid, but it’s comforting to know that a wealth of information is only a few clicks away.

What are your favorite canine-related websites?

News: Guest Posts
Just Between Us
The Swine Flu outbreak should pose little risk to cats and dogs.

There is one worrisome scenario you can cross off your flu fear list. According to a recent statement from the ASPCA, the H1N1 virus—unfortunately known as “Swine Flu”—is not likely to jump the species barrier again and start infecting cats and dogs.
 
“At this time there is no data demonstrating any risk of dogs and cats contracting this strain of the virus,” says Dr. Louise Murray, the Director of Medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Hospital in New York City. For more information about swine flu and updated information on prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Control, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the World Health Organization.

News: Guest Posts
Bad Chemistry
What’s worse than fleas? Maybe flea collars.

Almost before I finished typing up a blog about a disturbing report on the canine health risks posed by over-the-counter, spot-on pesticides, I saw the latest news about flea collars. Last week, the National Resource Defense Council filed a lawsuit alleging that 16 retailers and manufacturers—we’re talking the big guys here—failed to warn consumers about exposure to unsafe levels of known carcinogens and neurotoxins in violation of California anti-toxics laws.

Once again we’re being warned: “Just because it’s sold in stores doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

The NRDC’s groundbreaking Poison on Pets II study found “that high levels of pesticide residue can remain on a dog’s or cat’s fur for weeks after a flea collar is put on an animal. Residue levels produced by some flea collars are so high that they pose a risk of cancer and damage to the neurological system of children up to 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s acceptable levels.” Something tells me the fact that this study identifies the risk to two-legged children will help the cause garner broader attention.

Meanwhile, it’s flea season across the nation and guardians need better, safer options right way. At Green Paws, the NRDC offers practical advice including a video (see below) on fighting fleas the old fashioned way, a product guide, and a wallet-sized primer on chemicals and herbal options.

 

News: Guest Posts
Good News for Dogs With Epilepsy
Veterinary clinical trial offers a chance for FREE medical treatment.

Discovering that your dog has epilepsy can be frightening. That the cause of the recurring seizures cannot be identified—known as idiopathic epilepsy—only makes matters worse. But there is some good news. A large, nationwide veterinary clinical trial for the purpose of evaluating a new medication for the treating idiopathic epilepsy is underway. The trial not only means a boost for research, it may be a boost for recession-strapped guardians.

Despite estimates that idiopathic epilepsy may affect up to 5.7 percent of the dog population in the United States, very little is known about this disease. This study, the largest-known trial of its kind, should provide the foundation for new insights and treatments. Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the veterinary clinical trial is being conducted in multiple cities with hundreds of dogs.

Will your dog qualify? Participating dogs must be at least 4 months old, have not been previously treated with anti-seizure medication, weigh at least 11 pounds, and have no previous history of seizure clusters or status epilepticus. In addition, dogs cannot be pregnant or suspected to be pregnant and must be evaluated an investigator within seven days of the most recent seizure.

Here’s the bonus: Dogs that meet the initial qualifications for the study receive free medical evaluations, as well as in-depth diagnostic tests, which may include a CAT scan or MRI. If enrolled in the study, dogs also receive free medication (no placebo) and monthly exams. In addition to free study specific care, owners of enrolled dogs are also eligible to have funds credited to their accounts at their referring family veterinarian.

For more information, talk to your veterinarian, review these frequently asked questions, or call 1-888-598-7125, ext. 208.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
FDA Investigates Nutro Dog Food
Illnesses may be linked to food. UPDATED.

[Editor's Note: ConsumerAffairs.com has reported that the FDA is denying reports of an investigation into Nutro, contradicting individuals who say they have been contacted about Nutro by FDA investigators, as well as others in the FDA. We'll keep following this story. Meanwhile, readers have posted some interesting comments including an inside perspective from someone who claims to be a former employee.]

 

There has long been talk that Nutro Dog Food may be responsible for illnesses in many dogs, but the company has denied these claims and maintained that their food is safe. It may be some time before the truth is sorted out, but we do now know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the company.

Food safety continues to be a huge issue for both people and our pets, and we must be cautious about everything we feed our dogs. It may be a long time before we know whether or not Nutro Dog Food is causing these problems, but the fact that an investigation is underway to determine the truth is a good thing.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Survives Eating Underwear
Intimate issues Down Under

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Australia required an expensive life-saving surgery to remove a blockage. The culprit turned out to be a black lacy G-string; the elastic had gotten tied up in his intestines. Naturally, many folks are having a laugh over this embarrassing (to his guardian) discovery now that the dog is okay, but blockages caused by ingesting non-food items are serious and scary because they can be life threatening.

Dogs who like to eat items that are not food are common. Most go for socks and underwear, but ask the average veterinarian, and you are bound to hear stories of towels, ace bandages, stockings, carpets, gravel, pens, knives, spoons and, of course, the proverbial homework. Prevention is the safest path since few dogs give up this habit unless all temptation is removed, and it’s by far the least expensive. If you have a dog who is an “eater” you have excellent motivation to thoroughly dog-proof your home, which includes training all members of the household not to leave clothes or other items of interest to the dog within reach. With practice, the result is an exceptionally clean house and a safe, healthy dog.

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