Top 5 Reasons to Read a Review on Raw Meat-based Diets

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Continuing along with the ‘Top 5’ theme from the last blog , a recent review article on ‘Raw diets for dogs and cats’ nicely summarizes the rationale behind (and concerns related to) feeding raw meat-based diets and products.

The publication divvies subject matter into layer-cake categories and tables of scientific evidence. I’ve condensed the topics below for those of you with the attention span of the proverbial gnat (like me) or an interest in specific sections of the paper.

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1.     Practice, rationale and motivation for feeding raw meat-based diets, i.e. ‘what are the reasons behind feeding these products to one’s dog or cat?’ This is an important section, in part to help prompt veterinarians and clinic support staff to remember to ask about diet history during vet visits. Our own research here at AVC showed a startlingly high percentage of raw meat feeding practices (homemade and commercial diet format), which led to establishment of a raw food policy in order to reduce infection risk between animal patients, human staff and my lovely veterinary students.

2.     Evidence behind raw food benefits. Spoiler alert- There is some evidence, but it seems related to the creation of small firm poopies by a group of Boxers and kittens, which may (or may not) be considered a benefit, dependent on how one prefers poop to look…I’m not sure how the Boxers or kittens felt about it. The rest of the evidence (tackled in other reviews and addressed by the AVMA and WSAVA) appears to warrant a 6 or 7 on a Fecal Grading Chart, i.e. the evidence is thin and watery.

3.     Controls on raw food diets source materials and processors, i.e. safety regulations in the EU and USA. This isn’t a big section…partly because while there is regulation…there isn’t always all that much occurring in terms of oversight.

4.     Health risks of raw feeding related to nutrition and infection

a.     Nutritional imbalance and deficiency risks. This underlines the importance of feeding a diet that is complete and balanced, and unfortunately these diets are frequently neither.

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b.     Infection risks (bacterial) to dogs, cats and humans. This category covers various bugs, such as Salmonella, E. coli, etc…this isn’t a short list of risks and it’s a big section.

c.     Infection risks (other germs) to dogs, cats and humans, +/- livestock. This category covers other germs, e.g. Toxoplasma gondii, pseudorabies. These are a concern when these diets and products are not properly freeze-thawed and is due to the varying effect of this manufacturing practise on specific bugs and more practically (and possibly frequently) due to human error, i.e. when proper freeze temperatures and durations aren’t followed.

5.     Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) concerns related to these diets, e.g. extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) resistance. This may sound like something a cat might do (i.e. hack, gag, ESBL all over the clean floor, bed, etc.), but just goes to show how interconnected the choices we make for our pets are on us, i.e. the members of the human race. The concern of AMR in pets and people is a real one and something we all need to be cognizant of. Here’s a bit more information on the topic: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/top-health-concerns/top-health-concerns.html

As a veterinarian, I’ve been lucky enough to meet (and be inspired by) many pet-owners over the years- I also freely admit to being all kinds of ridiculous about my own pair of E. Setters.  And I am very aware that folks who choose to feed raw meat based diets, (either complete or partial feeding), do so because they genuinely want the very best for their fur babies-and love them just like I love my nutter dogs.

However, the choice to feed these diets comes with accountability to other animals and humans, besides one’s own, and this article does a nice job laying those concerns and considerations out, along with providing information regarding what impact this choice might have on the individual pet.

Top 5 ways to ‘Prevent an animal associated injury this season’

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This Easter weekend, during various holiday time-points (i.e. E. Bunny egg hunt, over-indulgence on anti-oxidant containing treats, grading exams, travel and yard work), the family and I came up with a:

Top 5 things to remember to keep yourself (and your family) safe from an animal associated injury or infectious disease’ list.

Although we hope 1-4 below are also on your ‘They did what?!@’ list, we’ve learned over the years that common sense just ain’t so common…So, without further ado, here is our spring-themed (think bunnies, chicks, lambs) list of things to consider, as we hop, flap, bounce or caper into a new season:

 

Top 4 things NOT to do, and 1 thing TO do:

1.      Don’t run over dead animals with your lawn mower- especially those ‘wascally wabbits’. I repeat, ‘Avoid this like the plague’. Yes, I am writing about tularemia…

2.      Don’t kiss your (anyone else’s or your child’s class pet) hedgehog on the mouth- or anywhere else.

3.      Replace ‘hedgehog’ in #2 with chick, duckling, rat, guinea pig, gecko, bearded dragon, frog, or snake, and same thing…don’t do it.

4.      Don’t do a mouth castration on your (or anyone else’s or your child’s class pet) lamb. Once again, this is applicable to many (ANY) species, i.e. Do not do this.

5.      Do download (and pass along) these freely available dog and cat colouring pages. Prevention of dog and cat bites begins with education and awareness on animal behaviour- and it’s easiest to learn when it’s simple and fun…at least that’s true for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filtered lenses and Consensus: More than a poor rhyme?

This spring saw the birth (i.e. recent publication) of a few veterinary consensus guidelines, on topics ranging from hemolytic anemia , dental care, to antibiotic use.

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What’s so exciting about that you ask? Well…Consensus guidelines can be wonderfully helpful in animal health decision-making for vets and pet-owners, because (provided they are done well) these publications strive to provide evidence-supported recommendations on topics that veterinarians commonly face with the end-goal of benefiting animal (and in some cases human) health. I suspect that’s why guidelines of this type sometimes appear to be cropping up quicker than April showers in Canada, in other words…most of us are still getting snow.

Much as I heart an easily searched for (and freely available online) guideline, as with anything one reads (barring fiction) it’s probably important to apply a level of scrutiny prior to acceptance and application. Simply put, consider reading guidelines (or any other scientific article) with a few questions in mind. For example:

1)      ‘What’s the clinical question(s) being asked by this summary…and is it actually relevant to my veterinary patients, own pet, the area I live, etc.?’

2)      ‘Will this recommendation bring about an outcome that is different (and hopefully better) compared with: a) another therapy (or diagnostic), or b) doing nothing at all?’

To help with this style of assessment, (i.e. if critical review isn’t something you routinely do- or like myself- you may be distracted by the NHL playoffs (Go Jets Go: and new season of Game of Thrones- OMG! Dragons ), think about reading with a checklist that helps assess the quality of the overall publication and research referenced within. There are a number of these checklists available online. Here’s an example of a few:

https://www.cliniciansbrief.com/article/top-5-steps-practice-evidence-based-veterinary-medicine;

http://guides.osu.edu/vetmed/EBVM 

Getting to the guidelines… two of the publications below are revisions of prior guidelines and one is brand-new. They are all worth a read for various reasons- the most important of these being improvement of animal health. However, if you’ve got some free time over the upcoming E. Bunny associated holiday, try reading these without filtered lenses (i.e. using an evidence-based checklist) to see how they rate- and whether that scrutiny changes how you think they apply to (and most importantly will benefit) your pet or patient, your veterinary hospital and you.

1)      Antimicrobial use for infectious urinary tract diseases

2)      Dental care

3)      Diagnosis and treatment of Immune mediated hemolytic anemia

I’ve got the Brucella blues…and that’s no joke

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It’s easy to let infectious disease slide off the radar. Common things tend to occur commonly, and after all, this is Canada and the cold (and our political climate) keep us safe from most things, right? However, that type of thought process is true until it isn’t…and this latest news about canine brucellosis in Ontario (and now in Wisconsin: is a good example of an infectious disease cropping up while (or because) no-one was looking.

Savvy dog owners (and veterinarians) tend to think about reproductive system problems (e.g. infertility, abortion, weak puppies) in dogs with brucellosis. Although correct, part of the challenge with canine brucellosis is the bacterium’s (Brucella canis) ability to infect and spread in dogs without causing obvious signs of illness. Additionally, infected dogs (whether neutered or intact) can have other disease manifestations beyond the reproductive system. 

Unfortunately, like any number of infectious diseases, Brucella canis is zoonotic. This means that the 2 legged (i.e. humans) are at risk along with our K9 4 legged friends, and people who frequently have high levels of contact with infected dog body fluids (e.g. veterinarians, breeders, etc.) are at highest risk of disease. People with a weakened immune system (e.g., children, elderly, immunocompromised) are also at increased risk for infection. Further, brucellosis may not be on many human medical doc’s radars either. This is because it can cause variable and vague signs-plus it’s thought of as an animal thing...when it’s thought of at all.

At the moment, the heightened awareness of K9 brucellosis in Canada and the USA appears to be in:

1) dogs associated with commercial breeding facilities in parts of Ontario- and groups who obtain dogs from them, e.g. shelters, breeders in other parts of Canada, etc., and

2) dogs imported from South Korea that are currently being tested and quarantined- or being notified to be tested quarantined...the latter being a herculean task.

Other concerns surrounding brucellosis in dogs are that it’s near impossible to treat and cure-and it’s a challenge to diagnose. Typically, veterinarians begin with one test and if positive additional testing is required to ensure that a positive is a ‘true positive’, meaning that the dog is definitively infected. This is fairly critical because in certain scenarios (e.g. kennels, shelters) dogs who are positive tend to be euthanized due to risk of spread, inability to effectively (or practically) quarantine, public health recommendations, and cost concerns.

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For dog-owners (or soon-to-be dog owners), awareness of risks associated with dog importation (particularly from high risk regions) and ensuring your dog breeder is screening for brucellosis are important things to bone up on-and proactively ask about. Infectious diseases can (and do) occur globally, and they should always rank on the ‘DAMN-IT’ list of considered diagnoses for those of us accountable for human and animal health.

Ultimately, awareness and education are what’s needed to reduce risk and further spread of this pathogen…and until that (& additional ID and quarantine of currently infected dogs) happens… we’ll all be howling the B.canis blues.

 

The tick came back the very next day....

He just wouldn’t stay away.

 Continuing on the weather-related theme from the last post, aka you know you’re getting old when, you:

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1) chat about the weather constantly, and

2) mis-reference Fred Penner sung songs.

However, just like the yellow cat in ‘The cat came back’ song, the driving or drizzling rain outside is a ‘Meow’ call of return- in this case of spring. Somewhat less desirable than the thought of spring (and similar to the wails of the reluctant cat-owner in the song), temperatures at and rising above 4’Celsius also mean that ticks have ‘come back’ from their winter nap and are actively seeking a blood meal.

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This spring, in order to help with the concerns related to tick surge in Canada, there are a few new groups (of humans) forming with specific goals related to obtaining information on and educating about the rise of ticks in (and across ) Canada, tick risk and related disease.

Here’s three of these newer websites and a brief summary of their goals:

Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network:  

Goal to reduce Lyme disease impact on Canadians by uniting various groups (patients, researchers, etc.) in research activities.

The Canadian Pet Tick Survey from Pets and Ticks:  

Performing tick identification (& testing) on ticks found attached to companion animals in order to provide information on tick risk in Canada.

Tick Talk for Pet-owners from The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA):

An educational website directed at pet-owners to provide information on ticks and tick risks.

 There are a number of different ways to obtain information related to risk and disease, and sometimes it seems that a focus on working together (i.e. all groups communicating) for key health care goals gets a bit lost in the effort to info-gather.

It’s great to see collaboration between veterinarians, vets and pet-owners, and also between vets and those who focus on the 2 legged (i.e. human health care workers-researchers). Working together seems essential (at least IMHO) to provide a One Health perspective, and drive awareness of potential outcomes of tick bites and the consequent need for prevention for all of us- dogs, humans, other mammals and cats…whether you agree with that ear-worm of a song or not.

 

 

 

Winter turns to Spring turns to...Ticks

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The whimsy of weather keeps every Canadian connected with (and frequently at the mercy of) nature. And, while the country is currently getting a blast of chill, we’re also entering the ‘end of February’ slide to spring-summer steam.

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So, whether you’re dreaming of prepping your garden, getting ready for bird-watching or anticipating the start of lobster season (Oops- that’d be me!), be aware that the incoming warmth also feels good to creepy crawlies, i.e. ticks. Temperatures above 4’Celsius mean tick bites and the consequent need for tick bite prevention- for you and your 4 footed family members.

If ticks do bite and attach, it's pretty important to remove them, identify (ID) them AND test them for potential pathogens. Tick testing provides awareness of what’s ‘out there’ and enables a One Health approach to education on risk, disease and prevention for animals as well as people. Since Canada’s public health monitoring of ticks on companion animal program has been discontinued, a gap has needed to be filled. As such, tick identification (& testing) on ticks found attached to companion animals will be starting again this spring. This ID and testing will be performed as a collaborative approach through Canadian veterinary clinics nationally and coordinated through the the Canadian Pet Tick Survey on www.petsandticks.com.

Additional information can be found on the Canadian Pet Tick Survey and this latest blog posted by lead researcher Dr. Katie Clow:

https://www.petsandticks.com/news/calling-all-veterinary-clinics-join-the-canadian-pet-tick-survey

Similar to the Canadian K9 Lifetime Study (UPDATE), these types of studies can only be performed through dedicated veterinary clinic and pet-owner involvement. Having a mutual goal of improving health (for the 4 and 2 legged) Canadians across the country is a wonderful thing !

 

 

 

 

Finger on the ‘pulse’ of dog diets & DCM

Heart of the Matter: V-day edition: 2019

Perfectly ‘pulsed’, heart-themed and evidence-based, comes another publication on the topic of dog diet, taurine and the potential association of both with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM):

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Similar to previously posted about (original post here, Nov 2018 update here. Dec 2018 update here) articles on this palpitating subject, there are solid reasons for anyone with an interest in educating themselves on dog diet to take the time to read beyond this pub’s abstract.

Perhaps the top 3 being,

1) Representative author list, i.e. vet boarded nutritionists, PhD nutritionists, industry and academia,

2) Once again learning that there is a lot we (and the ‘experts’) don’t know about animal nutrition and that these needs may vary between dogs, and

3) That pet-food should be manufactured by people who have been educated on (and understand) ingredient components, e.g. pulses (peas, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) and requirements for nutrient balances in diets fed long-term, i.e. what the vast majority of pet-owners do and as typically advised by their veterinary team.

Once again, I was thrilled to see a group of folks collaborate to try and identify nutritional concerns related to keeping animals (dogs mainly) safe. This included the article tackling topics and raising questions like, ‘What might processing do to nutrients?’, along with providing recommendations (and aid) for formulating dog foods with specific ingredients, e.g. novel ingredients, higher fibre, and closing their discussion with a helpful review and effective referencing of recent publications on the topic of DCM and dog diet.

The researchers concluded with a heart-felt statement regarding dog diet manufacture accountability,

“It is the responsibility of animal nutritionists to formulate balanced diets for dogs, and other animals, by looking beyond the goal of meeting AAFCO recommendations or satisfying unsubstantiated market trends.”

The statement above, combined with the article’s call for action and mini-plan towards learning what dogs might need nutritionally, i.e. “ Greater awareness of amino acid (AA) balance is crucial for ensuring that AA requirements are met for dogs consuming static diets.”, made my wish for veterinary nutrition awareness and start to the Year of The Pig complete.

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Why Preventive Care is Necessary (Prevalence review)

Dear Canadian Veterinary Community, Ask, and you will receive. Here are the prevalence and ‘change over time’ numbers you requested …or the reply to why preventive care is needed, i.e. not a conspiracy.

There are many reasons why I adore the country in which I have gainful employment …Psst! Don’t tell anyone that providing me with a paying gig may not’ve been wise. And, near the tippy top of that ‘I love Canada’ list would be: “The Canadian Veterinary Community”. The following publication was driven not by my love of epidemiology (…and lo’ ye shall know them (clinicians) by their dislike of EPI…), but by my desire to give a ‘lil something back to the people who make up this very special community.

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Over the past number of years, there have been an increasing number of veterinary teams in Canada who told us they were seeing more. More what? More ticks, more test positive dogs, more Lyme disease, more clients asking about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, and more of other things related to vector-borne bug exposure and disease. In order to put some numbers to these concerns of ‘more’, and help vet teams do their jobs, we wanted to figure out if these jitters were valid (granted-we were pretty confident they were legit), and if so provide this information in a journal article that was freely available to all vet teams and their clientele.

So, we went to work to try and do exactly that.

Here is the end result of that effort- it definitely was not a solo venture- and I’m grateful to everyone who encouraged me to get it done. The publication establishes prevalence of a few common vector-borne (tick and mosquito) pathogens in Canada, how that has changed over a recent chunk of time, and frequency of co-infections, i.e. how often a given dog may be exposed to more than one of these pathogens.

We hope it helps you with our twin veterinary goals- keeping animals and their people safe!