Wednesday, April 8, 2015



A rare and highly contagious canine flu outbreak has struck the Chicago area. It has been reported that 1000 dogs have tested positive and 5 have been reported dead. Only 20% of Chicago's dogs have been tested and of those dogs, 90% of them have tested positive for the canine flu. The test for canine influenza is relatively expensive. The Lincoln Park area has reported as many as 20 cases per day. Two cases have also been reported in Laporte.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health says the virus hasn't spread to Indiana, but owners that travel with their pets to infected areas should consider getting their pet vaccinated. Dog parks, kennels, vet clinics, and dog daycares in Chicago are high risk areas. 

The virus doesn't affect humans. Healthy dogs that become ill will likely recover, however old and young pets are at greater risk if exposed. Severe cases could result in pneumonia or death. Symptoms are much like those associated with human symptoms. Fever, coughing, nasal discharge, and lack of energy are all symptoms that characterize the dog flu. It is highly transmittable through sneezing, coughing, nose-to-nose contact, and infected surfaces. Symptoms may last for two weeks.

If you suspect your pet is infected, call your vet immediately and avoid taking your pet to areas where numerous dogs congregate. 

Pet Diets and Frequently Asked Questions

Pet Diets and Frequently Asked Questions

     Like most things today, there are so many choices for so many things. Choosing your pet's food is no different and it can be extremely overwhelming! What's the best? Is my pet allergic to anything? What does by-product even mean?! What's a raw diet? A trip to the pet store to pick up pet food can make your head spin! Well we're here to answer some of those questions.

What is the best diet?
Well, despite every corporation claiming their pet food is "the best," there really isn't one answer for this. There is no blanket diet that is best for all pets. As much as we may think, expensive does not always mean high quality. Some inexpensive foods have years of scientific research done to ensure high quality, while some expensive foods are lacking nutrients or include fillers that are common allergies among pets. 

A good rule to follow is that if the product is over selling itself with over-the-top marketing, it may be too good to be true. If a company cites research or makes claims that it can't support, then that is a warning to steer clear of that brand. Bashing other brands in their marketing is also tactless and a good indicator that the food needs "help" being sold because it isn't the highest quality.

How do I pick a good diet?
A great place to start Here, you can easily find a long list of dog and cat foods complete with reviews, star-ratings, price ranges, descriptions, and ingredient lists. There is even lists of the highest rated foods and grain-free foods.

In addition to checking out ratings and reviews, check the label for "AAFCO," which stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. These foods have undergone "animal feeding trials" for appropriate life stages and are formulated to meet AAFCO profiles for those life stages. It is especially important to select the correct diets for kittens, puppies, and even seniors. The diet you select for your pet should ultimately be the one your pet does the best on, not what others are pushing you to buy.

If I can't pronounce the words in the ingredients list, it must be bad, right?
Not necessarily. Pets require nutrients, not ingredients. A diet packed with whole ingredients may sound great, but could actually be less nutritious than a diet containing less appealing ingredients, like hard-to-pronounce vitamins and minerals. Some companies add ingredients that have no benefit to the pet, simply to make the product more marketable. These added ingredients only add to the price of the product, without getting any nutrients from it. 

"Human grade" also has no legal standing in the manufacturing of pet food. Once food is destined to be in pet food, it is no longer fit for human consumption. Ingredients sourced from human foods are not always more nutritious, safe, or wholesome than food initially meant for pet food.

Ingredients are listed in order of weight, including water, so high water content such as meat and vegetables will automatically be at the top of the list, even though they may contribute less to the overall nutrition of the diet. Some ingredients of the same source, like chicken, can be split into component parts, like chicken by-product, chicken meal, or chicken fat. This can complicate the assessment. 

What about raw diets?
Despite the buzz, there are no scientific studies that suggest raw diets are healthier than cooked diets. However, there is a significant amount of evidence that raw diets correlate with dental fractures, bacterial and parasitic infections, and other health issues. There is also a potential risk to people. Pets that eat contaminated raw diets have been demonstrated to shed pathologic organisms in their feces and it is likely that areas they spend a lot of time in are also contaminated. The Delta Society has gone as far as banning raw fed pets from participating in pet therapy programs. 

In addition to these health risks, home-prepared and even commercially made raw diets often lack essential nutrients. The commercially made raw diets are also high in fat.

By-products are gross slop compiled of hooves, beaks, and hair!
Nope! By-products are often organs and entrails, which may not seem appealing to us, but they are incredibly high in nutrients. In the wild, many animals will eat organs over meat of their prey because it's higher in the vital nutrients they need. The term "by-product" is derived from the fact that the organs are left overs from the human meat industry because they are less desirable to eat. AAFCO definition of animal by-product excludes hair, horn, hide trimmings, hooves, manure, and intestinal contents. Like any ingredient, the quality of by-products varies.

Are grains bad for pets?
Whole grains, like brown rice, are not fillers; they contain valuable vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids while keeping the fat and calories lower than if animal products were used. Even refined white rice can hold some benefits depending on the diet and the pet. Most dogs, and even cats, are highly efficient at digesting and utilizing nutrients from grains. While some pets are allergic to specific grains, these allergies are no more common than allergies to animal proteins like beef, chicken, and dairy. Many "grain-free" diets substitute grains with highly refined starches from potatoes or tapioca, which often provide fewer nutrients than whole grains, while driving up the cost of the food. 

My dog is eating poo? Why?!
Dogs eating feces is common when the dog is lacking some kind of nutrition. If you suspect your doggy is a doo-eater, talk to your vet!