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The Hidden Danger of Xylitol

vet checking the heart rate of puppy

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural substance often substituted as a sweetener due to its low caloric content, glycemic index, and slow absorption rate in the human digestive system. Chemically, xylitol is a sugar alcohol (or polyalcohol) that contains two-thirds the amount of calories than table sugar. This substance is often found in many household items, such as toothpaste, chewing gum, baked goods, jellies, and jams.

Toxicity in Dogs

 As harmless as xylitol is to humans, it can be fatal to dogs, even when consumed in small quantities. In dogs, xylitol stimulates a rapid, dose-dependent insulin release that results in hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Blood sugar, or glucose, is the body’s main source of energy, and without it, a hypoglycemic state can result in seizures, extreme lethargy, weakness, and unconsciousness, eventually leading to death.

Dosages as low as 75-100 mg/kg (or 165 mg/lb) have resulted in hypoglycemia in dogs with symptoms developing as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion or delayed up to 12-18 hours after ingestion depending on the substrate containing xylitol. Larger dosages of  >500 mg/kg (227 mg/lb) may also cause dogs to develop severe hepatic (liver) insufficiency or failure, with signs of liver injury occurring up to 24-48 hours after ingestion.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Notes:

As stated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), xylitol toxicity is on the rise. Since xylitol is occurring in more household products, dogs are more likely to come across the substance. As reported by the Pet Poison Helpline, the most common source of xylitol poisoning is sugar-free gum. Depending on the brand of chewing gum and the amount of xylitol per piece of gum, it could take as little as 2 pieces of gum to result in severe hypoglycemia and 10 pieces to result in liver failure at 1g/piece of gum for a 45-pound dog.

Symptoms of Xylitol Toxicity

If you are under the impression your dog consumed xylitol, initial symptoms may include vomiting, tremoring, diarrhea, and weakness or lethargy. Check the ingredients list on the product your dog consumed- if xylitol is listed in the first 3-5 ingredients, it is likely the product contains an amount of xylitol that may be toxic to your dog.

If Your Dog Eats Something Containing Xylitol

Contact your local veterinarian and seek veterinary care as soon as possible. If hypoglycemia develops, your veterinarian may manage it with dextrose administration via IV. Treatment should be continued until the dog can maintain a normal blood glucose level without supplemental dextrose. In cases where larger quantities of xylitol are consumed, and hepatic insufficiency occurs, your veterinarian may monitor your dog’s liver values. However, dogs with signs of liver injury may not recover.

Products to Look Out For

Almost every dog I have ever worked with is a fan of peanut butter. As a dog trainer, I know how versatile peanut butter can be- you can add it to homemade dog treats, smear it on the side of bathtubs, and add it to chew toys for meal time. It is even used as an alternative to pill popping as people tend to hide medications within a dollop of its irresistible spread. Unfortunately, xylitol is becoming a common ingredient in many peanut butter products found on store shelves.

Always make sure to check the ingredients list of any product you purchase for your canine companion to ensure that both you and your furry friend stay happy and healthy!

References: 

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/food-hazards/xylitol
https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/xylitol-toxicity-in-dogs

5 Myths About Grain-Free Dog Food

 

We all want the best food for our pets, but what does that mean?  With the recent push for celiac disease acceptance bringing more foods without gluten, dog food providers have also been jumping on the grain-free wagon.  As it turns out, research does not support many of the common ideas around grain- and gluten-free dog food.  Here are the top five myths surrounding grain-free dog food, and the truth behind them:

 

  1. Myth: Dogs cannot digest grains because wolfs can’t.

A lot of people look back on the ancestors of their dog and ask, “How did wolves farm wheat?”  It’s true; wolves did not originally consider plants a good source of nutrition and would normally not seek out vegetables in the wild.  They would, however, still eat some plant matter when dining on animals like deer and rabbits (who normally eat plants).  If you offered a wolf a nice salad, he would probably use it as bait.

The domesticated versions of these pets have evolved to be able to digest grains and other vegetal matter very well.  Dogs are estimated to be able to digest over 95% of grains and plant material in their food4.  Dogs benefit from vegetables in their food since it is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals not normally found in meat alone.  Without the addition of vegetables, dogs would suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

  1. Myth: Grain-free diets are healthier.

With the recent trend in pets having grain-free food, many brands have started to market their version as healthier than food with grains.  They market their grain-free food as being better for pet’s health, weight, and energy level.

Unfortunately, many brands make their food grain-free by swapping out complex carbohydrates, which are denser in nutrients and have more fiber with their simpler alternatives4.  Where dog food used to have corn as a good source of fiber, and nutrients, brands are now using potatoes.  Ingredients like potatoes are simple carbohydrates without significant traces of nutrients and little fiber4.

  1. Myth: Grains are causing my pets’ allergies.

The number one suggestion by veterinarians when dogs present with an allergy is to change their food.  Wheat products, once considered the major cause of allergic reactions, were yanked off the shelves and replaced with alternatives like sweet potatoes or tapioca.

Grains are actually one of the last ingredients proven to cause allergies.  The primary food allergies dogs are likely to have is to beef or dairy1.  In addition to grain not being the primary cause of allergies, skin irritation is more likely to be caused by environmental allergies like pollen or grass.  Unfortunately, grains have gotten a bad reputation as the cause of health problems they have nothing to do with.

  1. Myth: If I am eating gluten-free, so should my pet.

The gluten-free diet trend has been a blessing for many people who suffer from celiac disease, making a wider variety of foods available that previously had gluten in them.  Many pet owners love to have their dogs eat the same food they are, which has helped fuel the grain-free trend in pet food.  While this surge in dietary alternatives is a good thing, dogs have not shown to be able to have celiac disease.  This makes gluten-free diets essentially useless.

While dog foods may be sold that are gluten-free, this does not make them anymore or less healthy.  What makes a healthy diet for your pet is if they receive the correct nutrients for them, every day, and they do not have a bad reaction to any of the ingredients.  Switching to a special diet, such as a gluten-free diet, does not guarantee your pet is any healthier2.

  1. Myth: Pets don’t need carbohydrates in their diet.

Recently, some dog food brands have begun to advertise low-carb, high-protein foods.  Carbohydrates have been painted as an unnecessary evil which does not need to be included in the kibble bowl.  While excessive carbs can lead to being overweight, they are still a valuable addition to your dog’s diet.

Your dog gains energy from carbohydrates, the same as proteins and fats.  While dog foods can contain anywhere from 30-70% carbohydrates based on their recipe, all offer a well-balanced diet with the addition of carbohydrates3.  A large portion of these ingredients are grains, which offer vitamins, trace minerals, and fiber.

While we should always be concerned about the food we are giving our pets, it is not always a good idea to jump at any new fad in the food bowl.  It turns out there is very little benefit to be had by cutting out grains.  In fact, you might be doing your pet harm by cutting out the grains, which includes important dietary nutrients they need.  When in doubt, ask your veterinarian whether they recommend a certain brand or type of dog food to suit your pets’ unique needs.

What are some pet food fads you have followed?  Whether gluten-free pet food or an all meat diet, please let us know what’s in your food bowl in the comments.

References:

4 Freeman, L. M., & Heinze, C. R. (n.d.). Grain-free diets: An alternative option, but don’t dismiss the grains. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from http://www.marionanimalhospital.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Grain-free.pdf

1 Huston, L. (n.d.). PetMD. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_why-grain-free-dog-food-may-not-be-the-best-choice

2 Huston, L. (n.d.). What Is Grain Free Pet Food, Really? Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_multi_what_is_grain_free_pet_food_really

3 What’s in a Balanced Dog Food? (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_whats_in_a_balanced_dog_food

Treats 101 – Utilizing Food Reward to Help Create Positive Associations

As a positive dog trainer, I utilize food rewards to help create positive associations and reinforce learned and desired behaviors. There are many different options to choose from but I often find myself falling back on certain foods and brands of treats time and time again.

Why Feeding Your Dog Each Meal From a Bowl is a Missed Opportunity

 In some situations, your dog’s daily ration of kibble can function effortlessly as a dog training treat, especially if you are in an environment with minimal distractions. Instead of plopping your companion’s meal into a metal bowl and placing it on the floor, simply bag their breakfast and/or dinner and use their meal bag for treats throughout the day. This will ensure that you have the opportunity to complete many repetitions of training exercises without adding excess calories to your dog’s daily intake. After all, excess calories can lead to excess energy or weight gain.

Size of Treats

The size of the food reward is important to keep in mind. If the treat is too big, your dog may spend a lot of time-consuming the treat & the treats may quickly satiate the dog. If the treat is too small (ex. crumb-sized), your dog may lose interest. However, especially with lure-reward training, most treats can be broken down to the approximate size of your pinky fingernail. When luring your dog, it is important that the treat is small enough that it can be placed between your fingertips so that your dog cannot visualize the treat. Hiding the treat between your fingertips will discourage the need of a visual cue of a food reward for your dog to complete a desired behavior. It is more important that your dog is interested in the treat they are consuming than rewarding with a larger treat.

Dog-safe Foods

I do use commercial dog treats but I am particular when it comes to the nutritional content of treats purchased from pet stores. Whenever possible, I choose to use dog-safe human foods as an alternative to processed dog treats. Some examples of food that I use as dog treats include peanut butter, sweet potato, and pumpkin. For example, I will slice sweet potatoes, steam them, and place them into a bag when cooled and use them just like other training treats. When selecting “human” foods for your dog, always make sure to double check that those foods are safe for your dog.

When purchasing dog treats, I seek out treats that are void of corn, soy, and wheat and are sold by brands I know and trust. Chewy treats tend to peak dogs’ interest more than harder, less smelly treats and are generally easy to break apart, increasing their ease of use. I spend as much time choosing dog treats as I do dog food. Are you comfortable knowing your companion may ingest these ingredients daily? If not, consider purchasing higher quality treats.

Location, Location, Location

Another factor affecting treat choice is the environment you are currently training within. Have you worked with your dog in this location before? Are there new distractions, like the outdoors or children? Are you working on a new skill? If you answered yes to any of those previous questions, it is likely something as simple as your dog’s daily kibble will not function as a high enough reward. In situations like this, your dog is more likely to be able to focus on you if your treat of choice is more alluring- smelly and full of protein.

When working with your dog, always keep in mind that every dog is an individual with different likes and dislikes. What may work for one dog may fail miserably with another. It is important to be flexible and willing to adjust to your companion to ensure that you and your dog can function as a successful team.

Cat Plague Makes A Resurgence – Should I be worried?

Forty years ago, feline parvovirus was the reason most cats died an early death. While it is the first vaccine a cat will have, cases of the infection are almost never reported. After years of rigorous vaccination standards and feral cat population control, feline parvovirus (also known as panleukopenia or cat plague) is rarely seen in veterinary practices.

Unfortunately, due to a persistent feral cat population and relaxed vaccination schedules, there have been two recorded outbreaks of cat plague in Australia, the latest in Sydney in 20172, the first in Melbourne in 20161. Brush up on your knowledge about this deadly virus, how it is transferred, and how you can protect your favorite fur babies in the event of an outbreak in the U.S.

What is Cat Plague

Cat plague, panleukopenia, or feline parvovirus are all names used for one type of virus that causes severe intestinal distress and often leads to deaths in cats alone (there is a different strain causing canine parvovirus). Cats who are not vaccinated, have an impaired immune system, and kittens are more likely to become ill after exposure. Kittens are the most likely to die from this infection, but even adult cats will need veterinary support in order to survive.

The virus is carried in all body fluids from an infected cat, and usually travels through fecal matter which is ingested by the new host. The incubation from infection to showing symptoms is about two weeks, but cats can shed the virus before they start showing symptoms. The virus is very difficult to kill and can survive in the environment for up to a year3, so your pet is likely to come across it at least once in their life.

Symptoms include lethargy, drooling, not wanting to eat, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and nasal discharge. For a cat to survive, immediate medical intervention is necessary to help prevent dehydration and treat symptoms until the cat’s natural immune system fights off the infection. It is estimated that up to 90% of cats who get the virus will die without veterinary support.

How to Protect Your Cats

Vaccination is key when protecting your pets from illnesses. Thanks to modern science, there are few viruses that do not have a preventative vaccine. The panleukopenia vaccine should be given to your cat between six to eight weeks old, or as soon as you get them. Your vet will discuss the best vaccination schedule based on their overall health.

The first vaccine a cat gets will usually be a combination of panleukopenia, feline herpesvirus, chlamydophilosis and feline leukemia vaccines. While kittens will have some immunity from these viruses if their mother either had them in her life or was up-to-date on her vaccines, this protection only lasts about twelve weeks.

As an adult, your cat will receive booster injections after their first dose, or you can opt to titer your cats blood to see if they have high enough levels of antibodies to skip a booster. With the consequences of getting these diseases ending in death, vaccines are too important to opt out of.

Should You Be Worried?

Despite the fact that this outbreak is making headlines in Australia, it is important to remember there are pockets of wild cat colonies who still suffer from this virus in all areas. Vaccination routines and population control methods have made the disease almost disappear, but where there are unvaccinated cats and such a long-living virus there is a small likelihood of infection.

With international travel so prevalent, it is also important to remember people and animals can travel to the other side of the world in as little as twenty hours. With the standard incubation period for panleukopenia under fourteen days, it is possible for infectious animals to pass through customs as they appear healthy. Vaccination is mandated in pets traveling internationally but not all routes to the U.S. are strictly controlled4.

Another international pet health risk, dog flu, overtook the U.S. in 2017 and originated in Chicago via South Korea, crossing international borders quickly. Dog flu can now be found in all states of the U.S. Just because a virus is currently on the rise on the opposite side of the world does not mean it is not a possible threat.

While the idea of a menace as deadly as feline parvovirus can be very worrying, know that the likelihood your pet will get the virus is very small when vaccinated correctly. There are a lot of social media posts claiming pet vaccinations are expensive and unnecessary. As this latest health threat proves, continuous and responsible vaccination is important for continued pet health to keep deadly viruses away.

References:
2 Feline panleukopenia virus resurfaces in western Sydney after 40 years. (2017, February 07). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/feline-panleukopenia-virus-resurfaces-in-western-sydney-after-40-years-20170207-gu7qab.html
1 Re-emergence of feline panleukopenia in Australian cats. (2017, January). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from http://www.ava.com.au/node/86283
3 Feline panleukopenia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://www.avma.org/public/petcare/pages/Feline-Panleukopenia.aspx
4 What are the requirements for bringing a cat into the U.S.? (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/56/~/pets—cats

A Quick Guide to Dog Play

Snellville Dog Trainer writes that without an understanding of dog body language and behavior, dog owners may accidentally label dangerous fighting as play or positive interactions as aggression. Dog-to-dog play is a healthy behavior most dogs choose to take part in, and when monitored, acts to properly socialize young puppies and promotes overall healthy mental and physical well-being.

A Polite Playmate is the Right Playmate

During a dog’s critical socialization period, which lasts approximately 8 to 12 weeks of age, it is important to ensure your dog interacts with other puppies their age as well as stable adult dogs. At this time, your puppy learns how to appropriately play with other dogs. If your puppy is too pushy, they will learn attempting to play in that fashion provokes a negative response in the other puppy and vice versa. Some dogs are simply genetically predisposed with a poor ability to read other dogs’ signals and must be taught what those signals mean with redirection during play.

Body Language & Signaling

There are many signals dogs use to communicate to each other that this mock battle is still, indeed, play. A play bow, which is the position where a dog brings their front legs out in front of them and their chest is low to the ground with their rear end remaining upward, always indicate that further action is play. Are the dogs that are engaging in play taking turns with each other? For instance, is one dog chasing the other relentlessly or are they switching between the chaser and the chased? This may be a positive indicator that the dogs are a good match for each other and that the play is wanted is if they switch between the chased and chaser during battle. However, this rule does not apply to every play match.

Are the dogs bouncy and making exaggerated movements? Are their mouths open and relaxed? These are also signs that the play is positive and desired.

Growling and Snarling

Growling and snarling do not mean the play is escalating to actual fighting. Dogs have the ability to distinguish between growls meant as a threat and growls used for play- play growls actually differ acoustically from growls meant as threats, mainly in their fundamental frequencies and format dispersions.[1] If you are unsure of whether or not these growls and snarls are meant as play, look at the dogs’ facial expressions and overall body movement. Growling and snarling may occur immediately before or after a more obviously playful move.

In Play Fighting

In play fighting, dogs may choose to allow themselves to be “caught” by rolling onto their backs and playing from the ground. Some dogs prefer to play in this position. A great and effortless way to check if the dog on the ground is enjoying the play is to do what I call a “consent check.”

To perform a consent check, simply pick up or call off the dog that is playing from above for a moment & watch how the dog who was on the ground reacts. Does the dog who was on the ground immediately return to playing with the other dog or do they further remove themselves from the situation? If the dog returns to play, even if they resume play from the ground, it is likely this dog is enjoying the type of play that is occurring. I perform consent checks several times throughout a doggy play session to ensure everyone is still enjoying the play act.

Dog Will Generally Choose To Interact With Other Dogs…

Overall, dogs will generally choose to interact with other dogs in a way that encourages the other dogs to continue playing, which makes monitoring their actions a lot simpler. If you are uncomfortable introducing your dog to unfamiliar dogs, you can choose to have your dog build longstanding friendships with dogs of friends and family members instead of introducing them to dogs at the dog park or other dog-populated areas. Dog play will continue as dog play as long as each dog is recognizing the other dog’s signals and is choosing to act accordingly, which is encouraged by proper puppy socialization. If you are unsure of a dog’s intent during play, perform a consent check and give the dogs an opportunity to tell you whether or not they’re enjoying the play.

2 Paws Up Inc dog trainer would be happy to set up a time to have a conversation to see who we may help you and your dog(s). Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to talk with our dog trainer 770-695-3096 Press 2.

[1]  T . Faragó, P . Pongrácz, F. R ange, Z. Virányi, A. M iklósi. 2010. ‘The bone is mine’: affective and referential aspects of dog growls. Animal Behaviour 79:917–925

Can Cats Be Healthy Vegans?

The diet of America is changing; more and more people are adopting vegetable-based diets, either for health or philosophical reasons.  Lucky for our pets, we love including them in our lifestyle choices.  This has launched a thousand pet food brands advertising correct nutrition for cats and dogs with no animal by-products, effectively making them vegans.

Can our pets maintain excellent health while eating only plant-based foods?  This has become a hot topic issue in the pet world, and one 2 Paws Up, Inc. has looked into for your peace of mind.

Dogs Are Better Suited Than Cats

Diet all comes down to evolution.  When choosing a healthy diet for a dog, you can look back at their evolution and see their ancestor; the wolf ate whatever was available.  Sometimes this included plant and vegetables, which affected the shape of their intestines.  Dogs evolved with a longer intestinal tract and different enzymes to digest plant matter, as detailed in a study of two vegan diets for cats in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association1.  They are able to absorb or create the vitamins necessary for good health from a mixed diet, or a diet solely consisting of vegetal matter (one approved by a veterinarian, anyway).

Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, a fact that the Feline Nutrition Foundation are sure of2.  A cat’s ancestors exclusively ate meat, so their bodies ability to digest plants and vegetables is non-existent.  This is why your cat is very likely to vomit after taste testing your houseplants.  With a shorter intestinal tract, cats have all the right ingredients for digesting raw meat very well.  They traded their ability to digest carbohydrates found in other ingredients for the ability to make all the vitamins they need from meat.  This makes cats uniquely incapable of staying healthy unless their diet includes those delicious chunks of meat.

Why Cats Need Meat

Cats, unlike dogs and other omnivores, are unable to create niacin, vitamin A, among other amino acids and vitamins2.  Instead, they absorb it straight from digesting meat.  Other forms of these vitamins are either not found in vegetables or are unable to be extracted by a cat’s unique digestive tract.  Essentially, without a steady diet of meat cats can experience severe malnutrition.

Despite the availability of alternative food brands advertising a vegan lifestyle for cats, a 2006 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed many owners share the belief that this lifestyle is not healthy for their feline friends3.  These assumptions are generally correct, as cats who are fed a strict vegan diet lacking sufficient taurine, niacin, and arginine begin to break down their own muscle and organ tissue2.  Cats suffering from malnutrition from an inadequate diet will be small in size, short-lived, and experience growing muscle weakness and blindness unless their diet is adjusted.

Can You Supplement A Vegan Diet For Cats

An often-used solution for pet owners determined to feed cats a vegan diet is nutrition through supplementation.  Powders, pills, and oils can replace many of the necessary dietary needs of cats so that they can eat a plant-based diet with no meat involved.  The success of this meal plan is not always the greatest.  Even pro-vegan websites, such as Vegan Cats, do recommend including some meat in cat’s diets due to their susceptibility to urinary and kidney problems4.  They state that, while some cats will do very well on a supplemental diet, a certain percentage will need the inclusion of meat in their diet.

The fact is, most vets will not recommend feeding your cat a vegan diet, despite the possibility of supplementing for a mostly meat-free diet5.  This is because it will always be healthier for cats to pursue a diet natural to them, whether this means through dried and processed cat kibble or by pursuing a raw diet.  Cutting out meat altogether, however much a cat’s owner likes it, is a personal choice a cat cannot make.  While cats are capable of living off a supplemented vegan diet, it is not the healthiest choice for them.

What are your feelings on the cat feeding debate?  Do you think cats should be fed a vegan diet if their owner is also vegan?  Let us know in the comments!

1 https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2004.225.1670

2 https://feline-nutrition.org/answers/answers-what-exactly-is-an-obligate-carnivore

3 https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.229.1.70

4 http://www.vegancats.com/veganfaq.php

5 https://www.petmd.com/news/health-science/nws_multi_can_a_pet_be_a_vegan-10837