Guest Posts

News and insights from special guests—from experts to enthusiasts.


An Unlikely Patient on the Front Lines
Army surgeon Colonel Fredrick Lough reflects on treating a Czech war dog in Afghanistan.

Colonel Fredrick Lough has had a long career with the military, serving as a surgeon for the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1970 to 1987, and returning in 2007, at the age of 58, after seeing soldiers in harm's way in the Middle East. Colonel Lough was deployed twice to Afghanistan where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Colonel Lough performed hundreds of surgeries while on the front lines, but there was one in particular that was a little different than the rest.

One day, after a mortar attack, a Czech soldier came onto base carrying a bleeding Belgian Malinois named Athos. The dog belonged to Sergeant Rostislav Bartončík and was trained to search for explosives. The attack left Athos with a huge open wound, a damaged urethra, and fragments of shrapnel.

Colonel Lough and another surgeon decided to take action. While they didn't have experience treating dogs, they figured that they knew how to control bleeding. The team stabilized Athos, cleaned the wound, and coordinated a transfusion with blood from another dog. After their work was done, Athos was taken by helicopter to larger base, and then to Germany to recover. Athos was later honored with a plaque, bone, and leather collar by the Czech government for his heroism.

Reflecting on that day, Colonel Lough says that the experience felt totally different from other surgeries. Having a dog on the operating table invoked a bit of home for everyone in the room and brought out a unique emotional response from all those involved.

Thanks to Colonel Lough and the rest of the team on base, Athos is doing well, albeit with a small limp. Their story shows that the human-canine bond can shine in the darkest and most dangerous places!

Watch Colonel Lough talk about Athos in this AARP video.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Dog Treats

“Squashing” the benefits out of a pumpkin!


Digestive Health

  • Excellent source of fiber.
  • Helps with constipation.
  • Helps with diarrhea.

Urinary Health

  • Fatty acids and antioxidant source.
  • Contains vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium and iron to prevent cancer.
  • Oils around the seed help keep the urinary tract clean.

Weight loss

  • Fiber keeps them full for longer periods of time.
  • Replace food with some pumpkin.
  • Adds additional flavor, naturally.


Let’s get cooking!


Pumpkin peanut butter treats


  • 2 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup of pumpkin puree
  • 3 tbsp. all-natural peanut butter


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Mix all ingredients on Low, until dough comes together.
  • ½″between treats is enough.
  • Bake 30 minutes.
  • Makes 75+ 1″treats.


Pumpkin-cinnamon treats


  • 2½ cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 100% canned pure pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 egg


  • Combine pumpkin, cinnamon and egg in the bowl.
  • Add flour ½ cup at a time into the bowl until stiff dough forms.
  • Roll dough to about ½ inch thick.
  • Line dog treats ½ inch apart.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until treat is golden brown.
  • Store treats at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


No bake peanut butter pumpkin rolls


  • ½ cup peanut better
  • 1 cup 100% pure pumpkin, canned
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 2½ cups oats


  • Add peanut butter, pumpkin, cinnamon and honey in a bowl and mix.
  • Roll batter into balls and place on prepared baking sheet.
  • Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks (3 months frozen)


Peanut butter, pumpkin apple pup-cake


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup 100% canned pure pumpkin
  • 3 tbsp. peanut butter
  • ½ apple finely chopped
  • ½ tsp baking powder


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Mix all ingredients together until smooth.
  • Grease a ramekin or a jumbo muffin tin.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool on a rack for 5 minutes.
  • Frost with the mixture with either: a spoon of peanut butter, spoon of plain greek yogurt or a spoon of honey.


Pumpkin and molasses treats


  • ½ cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 4 tbsps. molasses
  • 4 tbsps. water
  • 2 tbsps. vegetable oil
  • 2 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)


  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Blend all of the wet ingredients (pumpkin, molasses, vegetable oil, water) together.
  • Add the dry ingredients (wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon) and stir until soft dough forms.
  • Grab the dough by teaspoonful’s and roll it into balls with your hands.
  • Drop the balls onto the cookie sheet or pizza pan and flatten them with a fork.
  • Bake until hard (approximately 25 minutes).


Facts about doggy treats

  • In 2014, 16% of US pet food spending went to treats.
  • In 2016, 26% people spent $5-$9 on pet treats every month.
  • Pumpkin is 4th in the most recommended ingredient in dog treats.
  • Treats and snacks should only make up 10% of a dog’s daily calories.
  • Low calorie veggie treats include: baby carrots, a green bean or some broccoli.

This is a cross post from Kuddly.co. 

Cool-weather Tick Alert

My dog and I both enjoy the arrival of autumn. I love the cascade of warm leaf colors, and she particularly loves rooting through the newly dropped leaves, as if there must be a treat hidden in there somewhere. We’re able to take much longer walks, no longer burdened by daytime heat spikes, scorching pavement, or the constant buzz of mosquitoes.

However, this time of year also brings another, less pleasant arrival: adult-stage blacklegged, or deer ticks. Wait a minute! Maybe you thought ticks were only a problem in the spring and summer? Well, they are active then. But blacklegged ticks are also a problem in the autumn. The tiny, poppy seed-sized nymphs that were nearly invisible all summer now have grown into the adult form and seem to be everywhere. These autumn days, when all other bloodsuckers are pretty much gone, adult blacklegged ticks can be found spending their days at the tops of tall grasses and low shrubs, legs outstretched, and waiting for a potential host to brush by.

The females are particularly dangerous to you as well as your pup. It’s currently estimated that around 50 percent of female blacklegged ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacteria in the New England, mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwestern states, and the likelihood of transmission and infection increases the longer she’s attached and feeding. A lower proportion (about 15 percent) of these same ticks are infected in the southeastern and south-central states. And don’t be surprised if you see what looks like two types of tick on you or your pet. The all-black tick you may see is a male, usually just crawling around. He’s not interested in feeding (he’s only looking for the ladies). In addition to the Lyme disease bacteria, blacklegged ticks are also known carriers of the agent that causes canine anaplasmosis, another nasty pathogen that causes lethargy, lameness and fever in dogs.

While ticks pose a serious risk to you and your dog, they are no reason to hide indoors. A little TickSmart planning can help keep you TickSafe as you enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

Top 5 TickSmart™ Actions to Protect your Dog from Deer Ticks

•Avoid edges where ticks lie in wait.
Walk in the middle of trails, and stay on paved walkways away from the grassy vegetation where ticks are questing.

•Perform daily tick checks on your dog.
Spend time grooming your dog after every outing to remove any ticks that may have latched on. If any attached, be sure to use pointy tweezers for removal. Report any ticks found to TickEncounter’s TickSpotters program.

•Protect your dog with a quick tick-knockdown product.
There are many preventatives out there, and your dog should be protected every month of the year. Check out a comparison to determine which one is right for you.

•Make sure your dog’s Lyme vaccine is up-to-date.
The vaccine is a helpful component in the fight to protect your dog in case of a bite from a Lyme-infected deer tick (it should be noted that it doesn’t confer 100 percent immunity). Consult your vet for the proper formulation to protect your pet all year.

Create a tick-free yard.
Spraying the yard and then containing your dogs to the yard to prevent them from wandering into tick territory is a great way to protect them from tick bites and your home from loose and wandering ticks that could end up biting you.


NYC Behavior Program Works with Abused Pups
ASPCA's new state of the art center rehabilitates dogs to prepare them for adoption.

Last year the ASPCA closed its small enforcement unit, known to many from the television show, Animal Precinct, and shifted enforcement duty to the New York Police Department. With the police department's increased resources and wider reach, the number of dog cruelty cases surged, leading the ASPCA to open a new behavior center designed to handle the most horrific cases. These dogs come in so traumatized that they cannot be safely put up for adoption. In most cities, these pups would be automatically euthanized, but this new lifesaving program gives them the time and resources needed to heal.

When Alvin, a young Pit Bull mix, arrived at the center three months ago, he was so emaciated and weak that he couldn't walk. His owner was charged with his abuse. Alvin was quickly nursed back to physical health, but the emotional scars were much harder to heal. Alvin was afraid of people that he didn't recognize, as well as unfamiliar clothing and objects.

Animal behaviorist, Victoria Wells, worked patiently with him, wearing costumes to teach Alvin to trust strangers. He's made incredible progress since coming to the center.

Victoria says that dogs like Alvin come in broken and hopeless, but leave happy and healthy.

The ASPCA's state of the art facility was specially designed with these pups in mind. The center features rooms that can be cleaned without handlers having to enter a dog's individual space. Soundproofing and light dimmers are used, along with calming scents and music, to create a tranquil atmosphere. Specialists carefully monitor each dog's condition and progress each day. This information is used to customize the behavior modification programs, but also to provide evidence in the prosecution of abusive owners.

As you can imagine, dogs who finally graduate from the center's program must be matched with a family willing to care for a pet with severe challenges. Those who don't improve enough and are considered dangerous to humans or other dogs, are euthanized.

The center's comprehensive approach has attracted interest from other humane organizations around the country. It would be great to see elements of this facility implemented elsewhere. The program is not cheap by any means, but ASPCA president, Matthew Bershadker explains why it's so important.

“We owe these animals because we, as a society, as a species, have so horribly betrayed them and failed them. It’s our responsibility to make sure they live the life they were born to live.”

New York is lucky to have such a comprehensive and progressive program!

Case to Protect ADA Rights
A little girl and her service dog vs a school board

The US Justice Department filed suit yesterday against a public school district in upstate New York for refusing to permit a student with disabilities to attend school with her service dog unless the family pays for a dog handler to accompany the pair.

The lawsuit alleges that the Gates-Chili Central School District in Monroe County, NY, violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which states that a public entity must permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability, except under specific exceptions.

The child at the center of this debate, Devyn Pereira, 8, was born with Angelman Syndrome, a rare disorder that results in developmental delays, seizures and autism. Her mother, Heather Pereira, a single mother of two, spent more than a year raising the $16,000 for Hannah, a 109-pound white Bouvier trained to perform numerous tasks for Devyn, including alerting school staff to oncoming seizures, preventing Devyn from wandering or running away, and providing support so she can walk independently. 

Pereira, has spent three years trying to convince school officials to allow her daughter’s one-on-one school aide to provide periodic assistance in handling Hannah—primarily, tethering the service dog and issuing limited verbal commands. The dog is trained to last the school day without food, water or bathroom walks.

The lawsuit requests the school district permit Devyn to act as the handler of her service dog, with assistance from school staff. It also seeks compensatory damages of about $25,000 for Pereira for the ongoing cost of the dog handler.  

Announcing the suit this week, Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said: “Honoring an individual’s choice to be accompanied by her service animal in all aspects of community life, including at school, promotes the ADA’s overarching goals of ensuring equal opportunity for, and full participation by, persons with disabilities.” In hearing the news of the department’s decision, Pereira responded, “knowing the United States of America is not only sympathizing with our situation, but willing to take this all way to the top to fix it is an amazing feeling.” And she added, “I have so many dreams for my little girl and with the DOJ’s help, they are all within our reach. It is so exciting to think we are blazing a trail for all those that follow with service dogs.”

For more information about this lawsuit, or the ADA, call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800.514.0301 or800.514.0383 (TDD) or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov.  Complaints of disability discrimination may be filed online at http://www.ada.gov/complaint/.




Valley Fire Dogs in Need

As embers fell and flames grew, the question of “what to take” often came down to a four-legged bundle. But the Valley Fire in California’s rural Lake County left many with just minutes to escape as it sped through parched brush in record time.

“The community had to leave so fast that hundreds of animals were left behind,” says Bill Davidson, director of Lake County Animal Care and Control. 

Countless dogs that managed to stay with their people soon joined cats, goats, horses and more in evacuation centers crammed with cots and crates. One local shelter had to face its own tough choices; whether to euthanize existing animals to make way for the incoming. (Luckily, these two groups stepped in).

In South Lake County, where the 73,700-acre blaze began, among the worst in California’s history, the roads out are windy and narrow, through rock-strewn mountains and forests, with yawning drops at every bend. In 2011, a group of horse owners along with Davidson formed the Lake Evacuation and Animal Protection team (LEAP) to help prepare for the inevitable, catastrophic fire.

The volunteer group has trained to enter the fire area and either impound or shelter in place. The vast majority of city and county animal control agencies lack the training, equipment, or support from local fire agencies to do the work, Davidson says.

In recent days, some people ventured back into smoldering fire zones, escorted by sheriff’s deputies and CHP officers for a 15-minute check on the animals they’d left behind. Some would find their homes; others would not.

“Everyone is calling to have us check on their animals,” says Davidson. “The list is endless.” With the enormity of the crisis, he called in the ASPCA. Everyone wants to help, he says, but LEAP only uses those with fire training and personal protection equipment. The fire zone, where animals still wander, is filled with dangers. “Many things are actively burning, trees are falling, power lines are down, and fire crews are running around to trouble spots.” On Sunday, the ASPCA arrived with a 30-foot trailer. The four field rescuers and three shelter helpers are expected to stay through Sunday.

“We brief each morning and then they are gone for most of the day, not returning to well after midnight so far,” Davidson says.

The field rescue is uplifting at times, heartbreaking at others.

“As long as the property was spared, most dogs have done well,” he says. “Our goal has been to shelter in place as many as possible, providing food and water for the absent owner, then moving on to the next address.” If they survived the initial blast, most are far more comfortable and easily managed staying at home.

But over 1,000 structures were likely destroyed, “pretty much a total loss, including anything left inside,” he says. “The injured animals have been trickling in, all being sent for medical attention.”

How many dogs are missing? Davidson is sure there are hundreds that escaped yards or were set loose by their owners. “Social media has been full of pictures of animals set free by their owners before leaving. We have impounded about a dozen dogs just wandering around as we check on addresses.”

Lake County’s animal shelter now brims with almost 200 animals whose lives were upturned by fire…again.

In August, the county was struck by another roaring inferno; the Rocky fire, nearly as large but in a less populated area. Less than two weeks later the Jerusalem fire ignited. Help arrived from Chico-based North Valley Animal Disaster Group, but the run of disasters has left shelters reeling. And with some 600 homes lost, many people and pets are homeless.

 “We survived the Rocky and Jerusalem fires, but it pretty much depleted our resources, both physically and mentally,” Davidson says.

“Then this came.”


Best in Health: Purebred or Mixed-Breed?

With their extremes of limb and coat, purebred dogs may seem more prone to health problems. And don’t breeders even compound defects, as they tinker with uniformity? Yet the dog of many varieties, a potluck of traits, outlasts them all.

Not quite, say U.C. Davis researchers in a recent study lead by Anita Oberbauer in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. Their analysis of health records of 88,635 dogs, both purebred and mixed breeds, tilts assumptions. So does another recent study, in which they found both populations shared similar risk for 13 inherited disorders. One condition was even more prevalent in mixed-breeds.

Purebreds, and their health records, have made it easier to explore the genetics of diseases that get passed down, the researchers say. But as we hear about the studies, the belief that purebreds are less healthy grows. In fact, many breeds have proven more prone to some diseases, like Great Danes and hip dysplasia.

In this study, they sliced the data thinner. Could particular AKC breed groups, not just individual breeds, be the source? Do the diseases arise from dogs with genomic similarities like working and herding groups? The huge pack of canines, seen over 15 years at U.C. Davis veterinary teaching hospital, showed that ten inherited conditions are more common in purebred dogs. But surprise, not all purebred dogs.

A subset of pedigreed pups tied with mixed breeds for the disorders.

The conditions include aortic stenosis (narrowing above the aortic heart valve or of the valve); skin allergies; bloat; early onset cataracts (clouding of the lens inside the eye); dilated cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart chambers); elbow dysplasia (abnormal tissue growth that harms the joint); epilepsy (brain seizures); hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormones); intervertebral disk disease (affects the disks of the spine, causing neurological problems); and hepatic portosystemic shunt (abnormal blood circulation around the liver, rather than into it).

With a spotlight on the ten maladies, the researchers set out to learn which canines are more at risk. Purebreds were subdivided into categories, then compared to the mixed breeds.

For three conditions common across the purebreds—skin allergy, hypothyroidism, and intervertebral disk disease—many groups had higher prevalence than the mixes. But for seven others, most purebred groups were statistically neck and neck with mixed-breeds. (Aortic stenosis, gastric dilation volvulus, early onset cataracts, dilated cardiomyopathy, elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, and portosystemic shunt).

Terrier groups even bested the mixes for one problem, having less intervertebral disk disease.

Among the purebred groups, health differences were clear. Compared to mixed breeds, terriers and toys were more likely to have two disorders. Herding and hound groups were more burdened with four conditions. The non-sporting group, where pooches ranging from Poodles to Dalmatians fit in, were more likely to have five disorders. Working breeds, animals expected to have grit and vigor; six. Worst in health: the sporting group bred for outdoor stamina. They were more at risk for seven inherited disorders.

In fact, in three categories of dogs bred for endurance—herding, sporting, and working AKC groups—aortic stenosis, the heart condition present at birth, was higher. With narrower focus, other findings emerged. The researchers say the data “suggests that most breeds in the herding group are not at higher risk”—except the German Shepherd, which other studies have also found susceptible.

And while Retrievers were more affected by aortic stenosis, another sporting breed, the Spaniel, wasn’t. For a different malady, Spaniels were the unluckiest. Epilepsy was more prevalent in herding, hound, and sporting groups, particularly the Spaniel breeds.

Early onset cataracts beset both non-sporting and sporting breeds more often.

How did all of these health glitches arise? The study mentions other research that found some diseases, like elbow dysplasia, are more frequent in dogs of related ancestral origin. The so-called “liability genes” may hail from founding ancestors of related breeds, or be the result of human error in the quest for desired traits. This study, the authors say, “may shed light on the possible origin of certain inherited disorders in domestic dog evolution.”

For the ten diseases, the analysis found some purebreds genetically healthier than others. Flipped around, mixed breeds were no healthier than certain purebreds. But both populations may benefit from the work. According to the researchers, defining the lineage associations for such disorders may bring about new therapies.

Better, it could allow breeders to weed out the responsible genes to begin with. Especially at the local level. “Whether breeding reforms will mitigate inherited disorders in mixed-breeds will depend upon the locale,” the scientists say. That is, some regions have a greater potluck of breeds within their mixed-breeds.

Still, since most mixes have purebred ancestors, they say, improvement of the genetic health of purebreds “may trickle down to mixed-breed dogs.”



Dog Days of Cleaning
Tools to Groom

For those of us with dogs, summer is a season to be outdoors—early morning walks, afternoons at the lake or beach, weekend camping trips. Life outdoors is great but it has a tendency to follow you home as it attaches to your dog’s coat and paws … burrs, sand, mud and plain old dirt. Having our own pack’s three coats and dozen paws to clean and maintain, we’ve searched out a small arsenal of canine grooming products to help combat the inevitable summer soiling. Here are some of our favorite tools to keep ready in your mudroom, porch or garage … wherever your dog grooming takes place.

The Groom Genie
A new handy brush that untangles knotted fur with its unique bristle design. Brushing with this ergonomic tool also massages the skin to soothe and calm your dog—and fits in easy in the palm of your hand. What is often a stressful chore for both you and your dog becomes an enjoyable activity. The debris from your dog’s coat is easily removed from the brush, and affords you the chance to check your dog for bumps, bruises and hot spots.

These sturdy cloth mitts allow you to wipe down your dog without a bath. The neutrally scented product tends to stay moist in the package until used. The manufacture claims an all natural formula and biodegradable materials. All we know is when Lola comes traipsing in with who-knows-what on her paws and the after odor of a good roll … we reach for these indispensable wipes to do the dirty work.

Messy Mutts Gloves and Chenille Grooming Mitt
These colorful latex gloves fit snugly without cutting off your circulation and making your arms perspire like other cleaning wear. The soft chenille mitt is highly absorbent and the finger-like shapes allow a gentle, deeper reach to track down dirt. Use with or without water to good effect.


Shampoo Sponge
Bath Day sponges are all natural, certified cruelty-free, ethically sourced, compostable and detergent-free. They fit easily into the hand, plus they don’t foam up too much. These lightweight sponges free up our hands to better control our bath adverse pups. It also gets the job done quicker and saves precious water. Good for travel and spot cleanups, too. Available in three formulas: oatmeal, tea tree and watermelon.

This ingenious devise solves the age-old problem of a spot bath on the go. Store in your car or truck and use the RinseKit to give your dog a quick shower with its pressurized spray that lasts up to three minutes without pumping or batteries. The container holds up to two gallons of water, comes with a six foot hose and a spray nozzle that offers seven different settings. Great for travel and at home.

Think Twice about the Fish in Dog Food
Be sure where it comes from

There’s a new concern about fish, and once again, labels won’t clear it up. The hidden ingredient in some pet food is slave labor used to harvest small forage fish like mackerel. A New York Times expose of brutal conditions on Thai fishing ships describes the link to several top brand U.S. pet food companies.

Why not just skip Thai fish? Many would if that information was on the label, as it is with seafood meant for humans. But country of origin doesn’t apply to pet food rules. So where the fish or fishmeal is from isn’t likely to be announced on labels or packages. The difficulty tracking each link in the global seafood supply chain can even leave manufacturers in doubt. The article says bar codes on pet food in some European countries let consumers track Thai seafood to the packaging facilities. But prior to processing, the global supply chain for forage fish, much of which is used for pet and animal feed, is “invisible.”

Given the unsavory news, not to mention the topic of fishing the oceans to extinction, any amount of Thai fish is likely to be too much for many shoppers.

AAFCO, the governing (though not regulatory) body for the pet food industry notes that FDA pet food regulations “focus on product labeling and the ingredients which may be used.” Where those ingredients originate is left out.

That’s why some shoppers look for “alternative” certification labels from organic to Fair Trade, and put their faith in U.S. companies that aim to exceed regulatory standards. For example, Honest Kitchen, which sells human food-grade products, states on its website that suppliers guarantee their statement of country of origin. (Another promise is that no ingredient is from China.) The company is a member of Green America that promotes companies that operate in ways that support workers, communities and the environment.

As for buying dog food with fish sourced from non-Thai waters, some pet food companies do state where the fish is sourced. But many manufacturers have a long way to go to make the process transparent and easy enough for consumers to find their ingredient sourcing. (We highly recommend calling pet food companies and asking for this information to be more readily available!)

Advertising terms like “holistic” (meaning the whole is greater than the sum of the parts) and “biologically appropriate” (referring to meat-content for carnivores) say nothing about origin.

Even pet food regulators admit that pet caretakers “have a right to know what they are feeding their animals.”

So if in doubt where the fish is from, ask the company behind the bag or can. That much—the manufacturer’s name and address—is required on labels.

And some say, why should pet food buyers beware the global supply chain? With some research on a dog’s protein, calcium and other basic needs, it’s more possible than ever to get it right with a home-made diet rich in “human food” or even home-cooked table scraps. In fact, local food waste is a problem with plenty of solutions.



What Else Is In That Supplement?
Dog fed blue green algae supplement develops liver problem, report finds

A new report by researchers at U.C. Davis points to the need for oversight of nutrition supplements. The pills and powders fed to pets to boost their health come with no assurance of getting what you pay for—or more than you bargained for, like toxic contaminants.

In this case, a tainted organic algae powder was damaging the liver of an 11 year old Pug, who lost her appetite and was lethargic after several weeks use. The authors say it’s the first documented case of blue-green algae poisoning in a dog caused by a dietary supplement. (Most reports of illness involve dogs exposed to water containing certain blue-green algae toxins.)

Blue green algae supplements are sometimes fed to dogs to relieve arthritis or boost the immune system.

Many consumers believe these products can only be sold if they are safe for use, the authors say. “Unfortunately, the opposite has been demonstrated in several studies showing the contamination of blue-green algae supplements with microcystins.”

With the use of commercial health products on the rise, the risk is growing. While supplements are regulated by the FDA, there are no requirements for proving them safe or effective before marketing. That is, the industry “is largely self-regulated,” the report says.

Toxic blue-green algae blooms occur in Oregon’s Klamath Lake, where supplement manufacturers harvest much of their source material. In 1997, the state became the first to regulate the amount of mycrocystins allowed in supplements.

Adrienne Bautista, the lead researcher on the current report, says in an email that the tests may not catch every problem. The tests many companies use to certify their products are below the 1 ppb Oregon limit are often ELISAs, Bautista says, which mainly detect “the LR congener of microcystin.” But there are more than 100 other congeners likely to have similar modes of action that the tests are “quite poor” at finding. So even if the supplement tests below the 1ppb for this common toxin, others may still be present.

What could lower the risk from these particular supplements is to produce the algae in a lab-like setting, Bautista says. “By harvesting it naturally, you have no control over contamination from other algae.” 

The researchers call for stronger oversight of dietary supplements for companion animals, and greater awareness among veterinarians.

With treatment and by stopping the supplement, the Pug made a full recovery.


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