Connie Barnhart asked: Every winter, my beautiful shiny chocolate lab turns into a itchy, flaky dull coated mess. I brush more and add fish oil to her diet but she is still so itchy. Anything else I can try?

Answered by Dr. Phillip McKinney

Just as with humans, there can be many causes for dry skin and itching. Food allergies, hormonal issues (hypothyroidism), and environmental allergies (grass, dust mites, pollen). However, this type of seasonal reaction sounds more likely to be associated running the furnace. When we run the furnace, it creates a dryer humidity in the environment. This dries out your dog’s skin (and also why we as humans have drier skin in the winter).

There are several topical products, such as skin conditioners, that help in these cases (similar to using oils & creams on our skin). There are also prescription oral supplements such as Welactin, an omega-3 supplement specially formulated for canines. Be careful of the dosage of over the counter human grade fish oil supplement. While they can be safe and used for canines, too much can be toxic. Why? Fish oils are a rich source of fat soluble vitamins. Unlike water soluble vitamins where excess is secreted in the urine, fat soluble vitamins in excess can be toxic. We do suggest that you check with your veterinarian just to rule out any other causes and to get accurate dosages for your pet.

Another thing to remember, in the harsh winter months don’t over bathe your pet. Even the most gentle of shampoos will still remove the oily layer which helps to keep the skin moist. Over brushing can also aggravate the skin causing flakes to get worse. To remove the pesky flakes when you see them, try just using a warm damp rag.

Michelle Olinger Livengood Asks: Can you give your dogs “people” fish oil supplements?

Response by Dr. Ellen Helmers

Over the counter (OTC) supplements are generally safe to use in pets, however, there are some things to take into consideration.

The first is that just because a product is labeled OTC or “all natural” does not guarantee it is safe. No matter the origin, putting something in your pets system is still considered a drug.

Second, pets do not always need the same supplements as people do. For example, garlic is prescribed in people, but can be extremely harmful to dogs and cats. You need to read all labels ingredients prior to administering a medication to your pet.

Also, it is important to check the milligrams on the back of the bottle, rather than what the front of the bottle is labeled. For example, Fish oil is labeled ” Omega-3-1000″ but if you look on the ingredient list the amount of omega-3 is really only 300mg per capsule.

Nutritionists have reported that even OTC medications do not have to pass a FDA accreditation to be sold. So it is important to look for labeling such as a “USP” symbol which indicates that it has at least gone through other testing parameters before being put on the market.

There are many medications that can help with minor health issues, but before starting an oral supplement please check with your regular veterinarian for the dosage and safety margins.

peikkoThis post in memory of Peikko. Peikko was a megaesophagus canine. This is a picture of her in her Bailey Chair after feeding. This helped with her regurgitation. She lived a wonderful life with her caring owners for many years!

Melissa Shaw Asked to have us discuss the difference in vomiting versus regurgitating, especially when related to canine megaesophagus.
As answered by Dr. Ellen Helmers

Great topic. Let’s start off by defining regurgitation and vomiting. Regurgitation is defined as “ the act of passive retrograde expulsion of food and/ or fluid from the stomach or esophagus into the oral and/or nasal cavities.” Vomit on the other hand is an active expulsion of stomach content through the esophagus and out of the mouth. Vomiting unlike regurgitation requires abdominal effort.

Regurgitated material may be composed of digested or undigested material. It can occur immediately after eating or delayed for a few hours. Systemic signs seen w/ regurgitation include, weight loss, and increased hunger. Likewise, you may notice trouble or labored breathing, fever or a cough if aspiration pneumonia has secondarily occurred. When regurgitation is occurring, it may be indicative of esophageal dysfunction relating to an Endocrine disorder, Immune-mediated, Neuromuscular (Botulism, tetanus, myasthenia), mechanical abnormality (obstruction, mass, vascular ring anomaly, stricture, hernias) or primary esophagitis or megaesophagus.

Vomiting can be broken down into 3 components: Nausea (drooling), retching (contracting of abdominal muscles), and actual vomiting (contents are forcefully expelled out of the mouth). “A frequent misconception is that vomiting is invariably associated with gastrointestinal disease.” In fact, the list of rule outs for vomiting is very long. It includes but is not limited to: Metabolic/endocrine disorders, intoxicants, drugs, dietary, gastric disorders, small intestinal disorders, large intestinal disorders, and abdominal disorders. Due to the vast possibilities causing vomiting, a tailored diagnostic plan should be developed based on your pet’s history, age, breed, lifestyle, etc.

Once megaesophagus has been identified there are several rule outs or causes that need to be examined as to why your pet has this abnormality. The categories can best be summed into 3 main causes: Congenital megaesophagus, acquired idiopathic megaesophagus, and acquired secondary megaesophagus. Because the work up to classify the origin of the megaesophagus can be quite lengthy and expensive, it is best to discuss with your regular veterinarian the best plan for you and your pet.

If you suspect that your pet has any of the above issues please seek advice from your regular veterinarian on how to pursue further diagnostics and treatments.

pet_food_and_dogRhanda asked “Is Ol Roy good for a dog to be eating?”

Answered by Jen Oates-Blair, certified nutritional counselor

We get a lot of questions regarding feeding pets. As a certified nutritional counselor, I love talking nutrition with our owners. To begin to understand your pet’s food, you must first make it past the flashy labels and marketing campaigns. Many names, statements and claims can be misleading to the purchaser making them invest in a food that can be less beneficial for their pet. And, while it is important to know the ingredients in your pet’s diet, pet owners need to look beyond just the ingredient list and base their pet food decisions on the actual NUTRITIONAL needs of their pets.

To help understand the ingredient list, you must know how to read it and know what each ingredient actually is. One thing to keep in mind with your ingredient list is they are often subject to marketing whim and do not necessarily reflect the QUALITY of the ingredient or the nutritional adequacy of the diet. The ingredients must follow standard definitions and be listed in order of weight. So keep in mind, moisture is included in the weight, so high moisture foods (like meats and fresh vegetables) will be heavier than drier foods (grains and by-product meals). But the nutritional value of those lighter ingredients may be more beneficial to your pet than the top ingredients.

“Real meat” is often advertised as the first item in the ingredient list. There is no distinction between “real meat” and by-products with regard to the quality of protein and amino acid content. The use of “real meat” does not ensure higher quality or quantity of dietary protein. It is a marketing term intended to imply a fresher or more wholesome source of protein- a claim which cannot be nutritionally substantiated. Also remember, ingredients are listed on the label by weight, and raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight. So the actual portion of “real meat” in the diet is disputable.

A big ingredient question has always been corn; filler or versatile source of nutrients and energy? Corn is an excellent source of energy because it contains approximately 80% carbohydrate. The starch of corn from the highest grades can be more than 95% digestible. In addition to the high digestibility of the starch portion, corn contains a moderate amount of fat (oil). The fat in corn is particularly high in linoleic acid, which contributes to a healthy coat and skin. Corn is also an important source of carotenoids, nutrients that are converted to vitamin A. Corn gluten is the protein portion of corn. Corn gluten meal is the dehydrated form. The amino acid profile of corn gluten meal is different from and complementary to meat-based protein amino acids, making it possible to complete the nutrient puzzle and thereby formulate a complete and balanced diet.

Another controversial item in many diets is by-products. By-products are the parts of slaughtered animals that people do not normally eat or choose to eat. By-product ingredients used in reputable (key word!) pet food are “left-overs” from the very same animals slaughtered and plants harvested for human foods. They are safe and approved for use in pet food by federal and state government regulatory agencies. Many beef, turkey, chicken and poultry by-products can be an excellent source of protein, fat, starches, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. It is unfortunate that the term “by-product” has received a negative marketing spin that creates a number of unappealing perceptions with the public. But from a scientific point of view, such perceptions have no real meaning in terms of assuring a high-quality, safe and nutritious pet food. Some “by-products” such as the liver, kidneys, tongue and heart are considered delicacies in some countries and consumed by humans!

There are a few things in several diets that should always be avoided. Artificial coloring (yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, etc), is not needed in any dog food. Coloring is used to make the product more appealing to you, not your dog. After all, do you really think your dog cares what color his kibble is? Propylene glycol, and artificial preservatives such as BHT, BHA, TBHQ and ethoxyquin. If we shouldn’t have them in our diets, why put them in our pet’s? And lastly sugar and salt. Several foods have these items in them as flavorings. But again, if you need to flavor the food with these items, something isn’t right in the first place.

The bottom line is an animal’s body needs nutrients, not ingredients. Each nutrient in a pet’s diet has a specific function in the body; ingredients do not. By understanding the actual versus perceived benefits of different foods and their ingredients, owners can make the best food choices for their pets.

Welcome to Hawthorne University!

What is Hawthorne U you ask? Through our Hawthorne University blog, we hope to help educate, illuminate, and ruminate on topics from “What is in my pet’s food?” to “How do arthritis medication effect my pet’s health?”

All questions answered on this site are submitted by real clients and fans on our Facebook page. No gimmicks, no sales posts, just honest facts and information.

So join us on Facebook, post your questions and you may see your topic answered right here!

We have had many comments and questions regarding recent recalls of companion animal products. Since January, we have posted 14 different FDA recalls on dehydrated raw meat chews, RAW diets and processed dry dog food products. We even had some on bird seed and bird treats. ALL of these have been due to salmonella detected in select products. So we wanted to present some information to help educate our fans on prevention and care of pets to help prevent the spread of this bacteria.

Salmonella infection in canines can cause fever, anorexia, lethargy, diarrhea, possibly with mucus or blood and abdominal pain. Cats may present with prolonged periods of fever and anorexia without diarrhea. Some additional things to remember about salmonella in companion animals is:

o Salmonella can be isolated from healthy (non-symptomatic) dogs and cats at rates of up to 36% and 18%, respectively.
o Dogs and cats tend to shed Salmonella organisms for very prolonged periods of time after infection. (1-7 days)
o Dogs and especially cats can shed Salmonella organisms in both their feces and saliva, meaning that transmission can occur via licking.
o Pig ear dog treats may be a source of Salmonella infection for both dogs and humans that handle the treats.

So what are our take home points from this? The main thing is WASH YOUR HANDS!!! Wash your hands after handling any food product for your pet. Don’t allow small children to play near or with dog and cat food bowls. Wash your pet’s food bowls at minimum weekly, try for every other day. Pick up your pet’s feces in the backyard frequently and clean litter boxes daily. It should be assumed, but make sure you thoroughly wash your hands after cleaning litter boxes and the backyard. Immunocompromised humans should probably avoid contact with feces and certain pet food products.

Good hygiene, thorough cleaning skills and a little common sense can go a long way in protecting pets, and their humans, from bacteria.

If you came in to Hawthorne this morning, you probably noticed we had a lovely aroma in our clinic. It is skunk season again! We have had numerous dogs come in that have been doused with the pleasant odor after trying to greet (or eat) one of these monochromatic creatures in their yard. If it has happened to your pet, you know this putrid scent can hang around for a while. There are many home remedies floating around on the internet, but there are a few things to remember:

-While the spray doesn’t directly harm the pet’s eye, the burning sensation can cause excess rubbing, which can lead to eye damage. Eyes should be sponged off with a warm wash cloth and if possible, eyes can be rinsed out with saline solution. If your pet is rubbing, and eyes continue to be very red, contact your veterinarian to make sure they haven’t injured the eye. Don’t put anything in the eyes (medicinal) without contacting your vet.

-The spray is oily, so it is necessary to strip that oil off the coat to remove it. Some pets can benefit from a hair trim to remove the offending oils. Also, washing pets with an oil-stripping shampoo can help. Dawn dish detergent is great for that, but be careful of over bathing. This can cause drying of the skin, which can lead to additional issues.

Below is our skunk bath recipe we use here at Hawthorne. It usually takes 4-5 times these amounts for long haired or large pets (think Shepherds).
Keep in mind this will bleach materials and hands, so wearing gloves it recommended.

1 quart 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
1 teaspoon liquid soap
(Dawn Dishwashing Detergent is often recommended, but any dish soap will work)
Rubber or latex gloves

Mix ingredients in an open container (bucket or bowl); it will be fizzy, do not mix in a closed container as it can explode due to chemical reaction between the peroxide and baking soda.

Thoroughly wet your dog with the solution while it is still bubbling. Knead it well into his coat to chemically alter every bit of the oils on his hair. Be careful to keep the formula out if the dog’s eyes, nose and mouth; you can use a sponge to carefully wipe it onto his face. Let the solution stand for 10 minutes before rinsing. Follow the bath with a thorough rinse and a shampoo. Be sure to protect the eyes when rinsing the head.

And lastly, be patient. It can take a while for the scent to fade from faces and hard to wash areas. Good luck!

As temperatures soar (as they are predicted to do here this week), we see an increased number of dehydration and heat stroke cases in our hospital. We want to help you avoid these deadly conditions by giving you a few simple tips to help avoid putting your pet in a dangerous situation.

Heat stroke and your pets:

Dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans – they release heat primarily by panting and they sweat through the foot pads and nose. If a dog cannot effectively expel heat, their internal body temperature begins to rise. Once the dog’s temperature reaches 106°, damage to the body’s cellular system and organs may become irreversible. Unfortunately, too many dogs succumb to heat stroke when it could have been avoided. Don’t leave your pet unattended in a vehicle. Hot cars, even those with the windows cracked, can soar to deadly temperatures in minutes (see our demo last year on our Facebook page). Outdoor pets need a shaded area to cool off, but watch garages and sheds as they can get overheated quickly with no air circulating through the enclosed space. Also avoid vigorous exercise with your pets during hot days. Dogs tend to not know when to quit, and this can lead to dehydration and heat stroke. Signs of heat stroke can be:

Increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency)
Vigorous panting
Dark red gums
Tacky or dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
Weakness, lethargy
Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
Thick saliva
Dizziness or disorientation

Dehydration and water toxicity:

Hyponatremia, or water toxicity, occurs when water enters the body more quickly that it can be removed. Dehydration can cause a pet, especially dogs, to drink excessive amounts of water in a short period, such as after when they . These large amounts of consumed water can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. Bodily fluids are diluted (such as sodium levels) and this dangerous shift causes cells to swell as a result of the changes in internal pressure, which can affect systems such as the central nervous system and the brain. Signs that your dog could be experiencing water toxicity are:
Ataxia (staggering, falling over)
Weakness, lethargy
Pale gums
Excessive salivation
Dilated pupils, glazed eyes look
Seizures, convulsions

Dogs that are most at risk for water toxicity are frequent swimmers or pets exercised heavily in the heat. While dogs are swimming, they can ingest a lot of water in the process. Dehydrated active dogs can overcompensate by drinking excessive amounts of water to cool off. It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog and take breaks often.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, you must contact your veterinarian immediately! Putting off treatment could be a matter of life and death for your dog! An even a delay in treatment can lead to irreversible damage.

For more information on heat stroke, dehydration or water toxicity, please feel free to contact us at 288-3971.