Animal Health Foundation Blog

Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake and Keep You and Your Pets Safe

November 24th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

From: at:

November 2, 2020

While many homeowners are under the false impression that earthquakes are restricted to certain areas of the U.S., the reality is that an earthquake can strike any location at any time. Although states like California, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon are more prone to the risk of an earthquake, one can happen anywhere without warning. An earthquake can cause tsunamis, landslides, fires, and other disturbances that can wreak havoc on an entire region.

As with any natural disaster, the best time to prepare is before the unexpected happens. Read on to learn about earthquake preparedness tips you can use to safeguard your home, family, and pets.

Earthquake Preparedness Tips for Your Family

While natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons can be predicted beforehand, even with today’s advanced technology, there’s no fool-proof way for weather departments to detect the location and magnitude of an earthquake. Although scientists do have a general understanding of which areas of the United States are most prone to earthquakes, they’re unfortunately still unable to assess the exact time this type of catastrophe will occur. For that reason, the only way to minimize loss of life and property damage is to prepare beforehand.

No matter where you live, there are certain earthquake safety tips you can implement to ensure your family’s safety.

Earthquake Readiness Planning Begins Inside the Home

The best place to begin planning your family’s earthquake safety measures is within your home. Follow these five earthquake safety procedures to keep your family safe:

  1. Identify both the safest and most dangerous areas of your home. Review these areas with your family members so everyone understands where to go if disaster strikes.
  2. Designate a safe zone where you and other family members can meet if you get separated during or after an earthquake.
  3. Since fires often break out after earthquakes, make sure your family knows where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it properly.
  4. Run regular earthquake readiness drills with your family so they become more familiar with how to respond if a disaster occurs.
  5. Review your community’s earthquake preparedness plans. Identify your city’s safety zones and include an emergency meeting place in your family’s plan in case you get separated.

Build an Earthquake Emergency Kit

After an earthquake, you may have to survive for several days on your own until help arrives. Smart earthquake preparedness means you have enough food, water, and other essential supplies to last for several days. Build a collection of basic household items that you might need if you’re forced to evacuate your home quickly or if you’re unable to leave your home temporarily.

What to Include in an Earthquake Emergency Kit

When assembling your earthquake emergency kit, take your family’s unique needs into account. For example, consider the needs of your pets or senior citizens when building your kit. If you have a baby, don’t forget to pack formula, bottles, wipes, diapers, and other essentials. A basic disaster supply kit safety checklist should include:

  • A gallon of water per person per day to last several days
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food that can be prepared without gas or electricity
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • A first aid kit
  • Waterproof matches
  • A battery-powered emergency radio so you can keep up with current information
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • A manual can opener
  • A map of your city
  • Hand sanitizer or moist towelettes
  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medicines such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and antacids
  • Masks to help filter contaminated air
  • Copies of important documents such as ID cards, bank account information, and insurance policies
  • Sleeping bags or heavy blankets to stay warm

Create an Earthquake-Proof Home to Prevent Structural Damage

Prepare your home for an earthquake to keep your family and home safe from seismic activity. Use this home safety checklist to reduce property damage and help ensure safety:

Purchase Earthquake Insurance

If you live in a region that’s particularly prone to earthquakes, purchasing earthquake insurance is critical. Depending on the magnitude, an earthquake can cause extensive damage to property. Most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover earthquake-related damage. If disaster does strike, earthquake insurance can help cover the costs of repairing your home or purchasing a new one so you and your family can continue to live life as normal.

Reinforce the Structural Elements of Your Home

Many new properties are built on a strong foundation, but older homes may be held in place simply by their weight. If your home isn’t fixed firmly to the ground, it may be prone to wobbling, cracking, or crumbling if an earthquake occurs. Here are a few ways you can create an earthquake-proof home:

  • Repair any cracks in your walls or roof.
  • Reinforce the cripple wall of your home, which is located between the foundation and the first floor of your home.
  • Reinforce attached structures such as your garage, chimney, and joint shed.
  • Secure anchor bolts or steel plates between the foundation and the house. This small investment can prevent your home from sliding or being overturned during an earthquake.

Secure Items within Your House

After an earthquake, gas leaks can be even more dangerous than the natural disaster itself. Consider investing in automatic shut-off devices or breakaway gas shut-off devices so you can easily turn the gas off. Then, follow these safety precautions to prepare the inside of your home for an earthquake:

  • Fasten taller furniture like wardrobes, armoires, and bookcases to the wall with straps or safety cables.
  • Hang heavier objects such as mirrors and artwork away from couches, beds, or any other furniture where people sit.
  • On shelves, place heavier objects and breakables as low as possible.
  • Secure your water heater to the wall.
  • Install safety film on glass doors and windows.
  • Secure ceiling fixtures like chandeliers and ceiling lights to the permanent structure of your home.
  • Install latches on cabinet doors and drawers to prevent items from spilling out.
  • Identify the locations of your circuit breaker or electrical fuse box and water shut-off valve so you can quickly turn them off if needed.

If you’re unsure about how earthquake-proof your home is, a professional engineer can evaluate your structure. Don’t hesitate to ask about home safety repair and strengthening tips for features like your porch, deck, sliding glass doors, carport, garage door, or other structures.

Earthquake Pet Safety Tips to Practice During and After an Earthquake

After an earthquake, it’s not uncommon for families to deal with the grief of a missing pet that became separated during the catastrophe. Unfortunately, many pets may never be reunited with their family members due to poor earthquake preparedness. In an emergency like an earthquake, your pet will be even more dependent on you for its well-being and safety. Your family’s earthquake disaster preparedness plan should also include the needs of your pet.

What to Include in an Emergency Kit for Pets

Make sure your furry family members are also ready for a major disaster like an earthquake by following these earthquake pet safety tips. When building a disaster preparedness kit for your pets, follow these safety procedures:

  • Pack enough food and water to last for at least five days for each pet. Don’t forget to pack your pet’s bowl and a manual can opener.
  • Make sure your pet is properly identified by a tag, collar, or microchip. Your pet should always wear an ID, even when indoors.
  • Become aware of your pet’s favorite hiding places. If your pet becomes frightened, it may try to hide.
  • Keep a list of your pet’s medical records and medications and store this information in a waterproof container.
  • Keep a leash, harness, and secure carrier close by in case you need to suddenly leave your home.
  • Take current photos of your pet to help others identify it if you become separated.
  • Display a pet alert window sticker on your house to let first responders know there’s an animal inside.
  • Write down information about your pet’s feeding schedule or medical conditions along with the contact information of your veterinarian in case you have to temporarily board your pet or place it in a shelter.
  • Include your pet’s favorite toy and blanket in the kit for increased comfort.

The above guide is primarily about common household pets such as cats and dogs. If you’re looking for earthquake disaster preparedness tips for other animals such as reptiles, birds, or small animals like hamsters or gerbils, follow these recommendations from the ASPCA.

Prepare Now for an Earthquake

Since earthquakes are more unpredictable than other natural disasters, they can be extremely dangerous. The likelihood of aftershocks following an earthquake can make matters even worse. While there’s no way to know when an earthquake will occur, you can do your part to prepare for one beforehand. Keeping every member of your family educated about earthquake readiness is important. Hopefully, these earthquake safety measures will help you keep you, your family, and your pets safe before, during, and after an earthquake.

Surviving the Holidays without Your Pet

November 18th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation


5 Things You May Not Know About Goldens

November 18th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

Mercola Healthy Pets

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
golden retrievers


  • Golden Retrievers are hugely popular dogs, but many people don’t realize there are three different types — American, Canadian and British
  • The differences among them are subtle, involving coat colors and body size
  • Earlier this year, the world celebrated Augie, the first Golden to reach the amazing age of 20
  • One of the reasons for the popularity of GRs is their eagerness to please; another is their extraordinary work ethic

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you can probably pick out the Golden Retriever in a crowd of dogs, because they’re everywhere you look — on TV, in the movies, in videos, in pictures, posters and print advertisements, and in nearly every neighborhood across the globe.

Not only is this breed wildly popular with dog parents (#3 out of 196 according to the American Kennel Club),1 but Goldens are also among the most photographed, videoed and written about dogs anywhere.

Interestingly, a little factoid about GRs that not many people know is there are actually three varieties of the breed: American, Canadian and British. The differences among them are subtle, but they exist!

  • American Golden Retriever — The American GR coat comes in a range of shades from blonde to red, is very dense and neither coarse nor silky. The coat lies close the body, with heavier feathering on the neck, thighs, and tail. The average male American Golden is 23 to 24 inches, and females usually measure 21.5 to 22.5 inches in height.
  • Canadian Golden Retriever — The coat of the Canadian Golden is typically shorter and thinner than its American and British counterparts, with a texture that is neither wiry nor silky, and with less feathering. Like their cousins to the south, the average male Canadian GR is 23 to 24 inches tall; females are typically 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall.
  • British Golden Retriever — The British (aka English) version of the breed has a long, feathery coat like the other two varieties, but unlike them, the British GR is usually cream-colored and slightly smaller. Males typically stand 22 to 24 inches in height, and females an average of 20 to 22 inches.

World’s Oldest Golden Turns 20

Augie (short for August), an American Golden Retriever, became the oldest GR on record when she turned 20 in April of this year. This is quite remarkable when you consider that so many Goldens live only about half as long.

After being rehomed twice (through no fault of her own), Augie was 14 when she found her third and true forever family, Jennifer and Steve Hetterscheidt of Oakland, Tennessee. Jennifer was working as the intake director at a GR rescue in southern Nevada, and she fell in love with Augie the second she laid eyes on her.

“She’s just darling,” Hetterscheidt told CNN. “There’s nothing to not love about her. She’s happy doing something and happy doing nothing. I can’t imagine life without her.”2

The Hetterscheidts have taken Augie on RV trips around the country along with her three Golden siblings — Sherman, Belle and Bruce. She also enjoys playing fetch in the pool and taking daily walks around the yard.

On her big day, though the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 100-person party planned by the Hetterscheidts, Augie still celebrated her 20th with a dog-friendly carrot cake, blueberries and a few other goodies. And decorations, of course. Pics of the birthday bash.

Here’s a short but fascinating interview Rodney Habib and I did with Augie’s dad, Steve Hetterscheidt:

5 More Fun Facts About Goldens

1.The breed originated in Scotland — The Golden Retriever was born in the Scottish Highlands, developed by a man named Dudley Marjoribanks, later known as Lord Tweedmouth. In 1865, Marjoribanks purchased Nous, the only yellow puppy in a litter of black wavy-coated retrievers.

Within a few years, Nous was bred to Belle, a Tweed Water Spaniel (a breed that is now extinct), and several of their yellow puppies became the foundation for a line of yellow retrievers.

2.These dogs have an extraordinary work ethic — Originally bred to be biddable (easy to train and eager to please), calm, and sensible for use as hunting dogs, the Golden Retriever’s physical and mental traits also lend themselves to more modern activities. The breed excels as obedience competitors, tracking dogs, show dogs, guide and assistance dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

3.Goldens are exceptionally eager to please — There’s probably no better proof of this than that the first three AKC obedience champions were Golden Retrievers. This breed is extremely easy to train and comes in fourth in The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren,3 as one of the brightest dogs ranked by obedience-command trainability.

4.They require lots and lots of exercise — To avoid boredom and weight gain, and to maintain their large, heavy frames in good condition, Goldens need at least one brisk long walk, jog or run each day. Games of fetch (retrieving) can be great exercise, as can swimming. Given the opportunity, this breed is sure-footed on hiking trails and loves the opportunity to explore nature.

5.Not every Golden Retriever is a born retriever — If you want to exercise your Golden with games of fetch, it’s a good idea to introduce him to the sport at a young age. It’s possible he’ll know instinctively what to do as soon as you throw the ball the first time, but some dogs need to learn through repetition and lots of praise each time they return the ball or other toy.

Most quickly learn that in order for the game to continue, they must bring the ball back and drop it. Keep in mind, though, that once your Golden gets the whole retrieving thing down, it can quickly become an obsession!

Owner Gives Up Pet to SPCA; Angel Fund Comes to Rescue

October 15th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

A few months ago, Alex Elias’ dog, Oreo, was not doing well.

“I fell into a deep depression, coming home and seeing her not eating and getting weaker by the day,” Alex said.

“Oreo was urinating a lot,” his wife Rosalinda said.  “I told Alex that I think she has a bladder infection or some other kind of infection.  We took her to the animal hospital and the veterinarian told us she had stones in her bladder.  “The surgery was really expensive and we just didn’t have any money.”

“Oreo was getting sicker and sicker and we just couldn’t see her like that,” Alex said.  The couple decided to take the dog to the SPCA, hoping that the organization might be able to take care of her surgery and then find her a new home.

Alex, terribly depressed at the thought of giving up his dog, took a binder he had kept that had all Oreo’s health and other records.  “The young lady there [at SPCA] told me, ‘Wow, she’s a well-loved dog!  I‘ve never seen a binder like this.’

“I said, ‘Oh, I love her.’ I was crying when I handed her over.” Alex said.  “I said I wanted to surrender the binder with Oreo.  I thought the right thing to do was to surrender her so they could help her.”

Depressed and saddened, Alex and Rosalinda returned to their home in Hawthorne.  The next day, the SPCA called them and suggested that they call the Animal Hospital of South Bay and ask about Angel Fund, Rosalinda said.

“They said Angel Fund could help us,” she said.  “I talked to a lady at the hospital and she said, ‘OK, let me find out a few things.’ She called back later and said Oreo was scheduled for surgery that day.  I said, ‘Wait, she’s at the SPCA.’  She said, ‘No, we picked her up.  And Angel Fund is going to help you.’  That felt really good.”

When Alex returned home, Rosalinda told him that Oreo’s surgery had been scheduled and the hospital wanted to know if he would like to see her before the operation.

“I said, yeah! It was the happiest day of my life. It was better than anything in the world.”

At the hospital the reunion of man and dog was an emotional moment.  “She jumped out of the lady’s arms and into my arms and she’s kissing me and licking me,” Alex said. “It was amazing, it was amazing!  I’ll never forget how she looked at me and she was crying like a baby.”  So was Alex.

“Angel Fund made a depressed person very, very happy,” Alex said. “If they didn’t do what they did, I told Rosalinda, I needed to check myself into the mental hospital and she asked why.  I said, ‘Because I can’t live without Oreo.  If she goes, I’m going to go.  I can’t live without her.’  So Angel Fund actually saved two lives.

“I told my therapist that I was thinking about killing myself.  I really, really did.  I was very, very depressed without her.”

Alex has a learning disability and has been unable to read or write.  He has been working hard to change that and now can read at a third-grade level.  “My spelling is really bad but I can read signs and I am learning,” he said.

He has worked when family members have helped him find jobs. In one instance, he was fired from a job his brother had helped him find.  His employer gave him written instructions and told him to read them so he would know what to do.  When Alex said he couldn’t read the instructions, he was fired.

He is also diabetic.  He credits his dog with saving his life when he fell into a diabetic coma in 2016.  Oreo bit him hard enough to wake him up but not break his skin, he said.

“I was on the floor and I went into the kitchen to grab something to eat – a piece of candy or something.   She was crying and pulling on my shirt.  she knew that I was sick.  she started nibbling on my ear.”

He finally reached up and found a donut and that helped get him back on track, he said.

He and Rosalinda live with his son, although they are now divorced.  The son and Rosalinda are his caretakers, Alex said.  Alex has his own bedroom and Rosalinda shares a room with his granddaughter.  “We get along better than when we were married,” he said.

Oreo – a Chihuahua-Jack Russel mix – is doing very well, he said.  “She’s terrific – running around, getting a little chubby. But she’s great.”  The dog is now six years old.

Study upends understanding about joint injuries

October 15th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

From the Cornell University “Chronicle”

An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can lead to severe osteoarthritis in both animal and human patients. Now, a new interdisciplinary study on the protein that lubricates our joints says that lubricant may actually be a precursor of joint disease.

The paper, published Oct. 7 in Scientific Reports, is the first that investigates the role of a protein, known as lubricin, in ACL-type injuries in dogs. It may also have larger implications for similar injuries in humans as well as the potential for treatments and therapeutics.

“Lubricin is crucial for normal joint function and the lubrication of cartilage,” said Heidi Reesink, Ph.D. ’16, the Harry M. Zweig Assistant Professor in Equine Health at the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and senior author on the paper. “We know that if a person or animal doesn’t make that protein, they will develop devastating joint disease affecting all the major weight-bearing joints.”

Lubricin is universal to mammals, including humans, though there is conflicting data regarding its role in joint injuries. Reesink’s study found that, in canine patients that had suffered a ligament tear in the knee, lubricin increased within the joint – the opposite of conventional assumptions in medicine. “The dogma in this field has been that lubricin decreases in joint disease,” Reesink said.

In three canine patients that had a joint injury, lubricin dramatically increased in the time between their initial injury but before any signs of arthritis in their X-rays.

“This indicates that the presence of increased lubricin might actually be a biomarker for predicting future osteoarthritis,” said Reesink. “We also saw increased lubricin in dogs months to years after they injured their ACLs, suggesting that lubricin might be an indicator of ongoing joint instability.”

Reesink said increased lubricin could consequently be a signal for clinicians to intervene or try a different treatment approach.

Reesink and her collaborators laid the groundwork for this new study by completing a systematic review of the literature surrounding lubricin in both human and veterinary medicine. The review waspublished this summer in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.

The overall finding of the review: There is no unified consensus on how lubricin is altered in other domestic veterinary species and in human joint injury, demonstrating the need for further study – which Reesink’s new paper has done.

“In looking at horses and dogs, we’re seeing the same pattern,” she said. “The strongest piece of data would be to show it in humans as well.”

Reesink and her collaborators worked with the Cornell Veterinary Biobank to obtain samples. The biobank supports CVM researchers as well as scientists across the globe, using biological samples collected from both ill and healthy animals at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA). The samples are processed, catalogued and provided to researchers, which accelerates biomedical research.

Among the motivators for this study, said Reesink, is that a large number of cases in the small animal orthopedic section at CUHA is knee ligament injury, which is common in dogs.

“We can help both animals and humans by potentially coming up with better diagnostics, by more fully understanding how these molecules work and designing therapies beneficial to both, by taking advantage of these naturally occurring cases and improving orthopedic care,” Reesink said.

In the veterinary realm, Reesink’s team plans to do a follow-up longitudinal study in dogs, examining multiple time points in a patient’s injury, treatment and recovery process. They also hope to draw similar connections in human ACL and other orthopedic injuries.

Currently, Reesink is examining parallel samples from both the Cornell Veterinary Biobank and the Hospital for Special Surgery, using funding from a pilot grant from the Weill Cornell Medicine Clinical and Translational Science Center.

CVM authors on the paper include Dr. Bethany Cummings, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences; professors and small animal surgeons Dr. Kei Hayashi, Dr. Ursula Krotscheck and Rory Todhunter, Ph.D. ’92; and Dr. Philippa Johnson, assistant professor in the section of diagnostic imaging. Co-lead authors are David Gludish, a combined D.V.M. and Ph.D. student, and Yuyan Wang, a doctoral student in the College of Engineering.

Melanie Greaver Cordova is managing editor at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Black bear whose paws were scorched in North Complex fire returned to wilderness

October 15th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

From the Los Angeles Times 10.13.20

A 10-year-old black bear burned in the North Complex fire was released back into the wild.

A 10-year-old black bear burned in the North Complex fire was released back into the wild in Butte County on Oct. 5.  (Department of Fish and Wildlife)

A 10-year-old black bear burned in the North Complex fire has been released back into the wild after an innovative treatment helped heal his scorched feet, wildlife veterinarians said.

Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found the 370-pound bear in mid-September near the town of Berry Creek in Butte County, where the North Complex blaze has burned more than 318,000 acres since igniting Aug. 18. All four of the animal’s paw pads had been burned and he was unable to walk on his own.

After tranquilizing the bear, officials transported him to the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory in Rancho Cordova, where he was evaluated by Fish and Wildlife veterinarians Deana Clifford and Emma Lantz. His lungs were damaged from smoke inhalation, his paws were badly burned and he had a minor eye injury.

A 10-year-old black bear was burned in the North Complex fire.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarian Emma Lantz sutures sterilized tilapia skins onto the burned paw pads of a black bear, after medications had been applied. 
(Kirsten Macintyre / Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Paw pad injuries are common for animals in wildfires, Clifford said, noting that when the tender tissue is damaged, it can present significant problems.

“That’s the challenge,” she said. “If they can’t walk, they can’t find water and they can’t find prey. … They become stuck.”

The bear’s rescue was the result of a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, which banded together in the midst of California’s worst-ever wildfire season to find and treat animals injured by flames. Dubbed the Wildfire Disaster Network, the group comprises veterinarians, wildlife biologists, ecologists, trained animal care volunteers and rehabilitation centers.

Under the direction of Jamie Peyton, the chief of service at UC Davis’ Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, the bear was given a suite of treatments, including pain medication, fluids, infrared lasers and anti-inflammatory salve. The animal also received an innovative treatment involving the use of tilapia skins as natural bandages for its paw pads.

Afterward, he was kept in a quiet enclosure for several days and monitored around-the-clock with a remote camera. The bear’s appetite remained healthy throughout recovery, and he even put on weight, but officials were eager to take him home.

“These are free-ranging animals that have never been in a cage,” Clifford said, “and so this is not an ideal situation for them. What is ideal is for us to get them back in the wild.”

On Oct. 5, staff deemed the bear ready for release, and wildlife biologist Henry Lomeli transported him back to Butte County. Lomeli chose a site within 25 miles of his home range but safe from the wildfire’s path.

The bear quickly ran back into the wilderness and even managed to pull off his tracking collar along the way.

He was the first of several animal patients this year. The Wildfire Disaster Network is now treating a female mountain lion from the Bobcat fire in Los Angles County that arrived on Sept. 21, and a 520-pound bear from the Zogg fire in Shasta County that arrived Sept. 30.

“It’s likely that we will receive more wildlife with burns,” Clifford said. “We are only halfway through the regular fire season.”

Making sense of genetic disease in dogs and cats

October 15th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

From Journal of the American Veternary Medical Association (JAVMA)

Making sense of genetic disease in dogs and cats

Published on October 14, 2020

Understanding genetic disease in mixed-breed and purebred dogs and cats can bring about more effective treatments and better client service, says clinical geneticist and general practitioner Dr. Jerold Bell.

French bulldog

“If we understand the genetic background of our patients, we’re better positioned to prevent, to mitigate, or to alter the expression of genetic disease, allowing our patients to be healthier in their lifetimes as well as to breed healthier dogs and cats,” Dr. Bell said.

An adjunct professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Dr. Bell spoke about genetic diseases during the AVMA Virtual Convention 2020 this August. In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Bell works as a solo practitioner, and he sees “dogs and cats all day long and sees genetic disease in our patients all day long.”

He explained that common genetic disorders are caused by ancient disease liability genes that preceded breed formation. Since these mutations occurred long before the separation of breeds, these diseases are seen across all breeds and in mixed breeds.

The most common hereditary diseases in dogs are allergies, followed by hip and elbow dysplasia; inherited cancers such as lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and osteosarcoma; patella luxation; nonstruvite bladder stones; hypothyroidism; mitral valve disease; inflammatory bowel disease; diabetes mellitus; retained testicles; and umbilical hernias.

In cats, the most prevalent genetic diseases are inflammatory cystitis, then feline urological syndrome, diabetes mellitus, lymphoplasmocytic gingivostomatitis, nonstruvite bladder stones, allergies, eosinophilic skin disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Disease is not a function of homozygosity, which happens when identical DNA sequences for a particular gene are inherited from both biological parents, nor is it a consequence of inbreeding. Rather, Dr. Bell explained, hereditary diseases are a result of the accumulation and propagation of specific disease liability genes. Breed-related deleterious genes accumulate in various ways, including direct selection for disease-associated phenotypes, linkage to selected traits, carriage by popular sires, genetic drift, and—most importantly—the absence of selection against deleterious phenotypes.

“If we don’t select for healthy parents to produce offspring, then we have no expectation of health in those offspring,” Dr. Bell said. “Not selecting for health is selecting for disease, and we need to understand that and pass that on to our breeder clients.”

On the topic of disease and extreme phenotypes, Dr. Bell said brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome is frequently diagnosed at veterinary clinics on account of the popularity of certain brachycephalic dog breeds, namely Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Bulldogs. Most breed standards do not call for the expression of extreme phenotypes, he said, nor do they select for the most extreme size or the most extreme brachycephalic trait.

“Moderation away from extremes that cause disease should be the guiding principle in breeding,” Dr. Bell noted, and in judging dog shows.

Common genetic diseases seen in mixed-breed dogs and cats occur randomly because of dispersed ancient liability genes, according to Dr. Bell. Uncommon and breed-specific recessive or complexly inherited disease is far less likely to occur in mixed-breed individuals.

Dr. Bell said designer-bred dogs and cats often have inherited diseases common in random-bred populations. They can also inherit disease liability genes shared by the parent breeds or parent species. “So if you’re breeding short-statured breeds together, it wouldn’t be surprising to see patellar luxation, or in smaller toy size breeds, to see mitral valve disease,” he said.

Hereditary disease manifests as a result of anatomical mismatch between parent breeds. “We see a lot of this in dental disease, where we see crowding of teeth and malocclusions and misplaced teeth,” Dr. Bell continued. “Even in the musculoskeletal, if you breed two breeds with different body types together, we may see degenerative joint disease and poor joints. All of these things, all need to be monitored.”

Sunshine Mills, Inc. Expands Recall Of Pet Food Products Due To Potentially Elevated Levels Of Aflatoxin

October 10th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

Sunshine Mills, Inc. is expanding its voluntary recall of certain pet food products that were made with corn that contained Aflatoxin at levels above FDA’s action levels.

Mast Cell Tumors

October 6th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation


The dreaded diagnosis: mast cell tumor. Mast cell tumors are the most common malignant tumors in dogs, but are rare in cats. Mast cell tumors can be quiet, locally aggressive, or spread like wildfire. They are great imitators, sometimes appearing to be small, benign growths or skin tags. They can look and feel like a lipoma or benign mass under the skin or they can be pink, raised, ulcerated, and swollen. They may grow and shrink, only to enlarge again later. It is impossible to know whether your pet’s mass is a mast cell tumor without looking at cells under the microscope.

Healthy normal mast cells form part of the body’s immune system. They can be found in most tissues, but in particular in the skin and the linings of the digestive tract, lungs, mouth and the nose. They are also involved in allergies and allergic reactions. When triggered, the mast cells release large amounts of heparin, histamine, and enzymes.

Mast cell tumors are generally easy to diagnose. A sampling of cells from an impression smear or a fine needle aspirate can be stained and examined under a microscope in your veterinarian’s office or sent to a pathology lab for path review. The cells are distinct in appearance, being filled with dark purple granules. Generally, when a mast cell mass is aspirated, the cells will release those granules, resulting in purple spots all over the microscope field. While it is possible to say this IS a mast cell tumor, it is not possible to determine how aggressive the mass will be without a biopsy.

The cause of mast cell tumors is up for debate, just like many cancers. Immune-system suppression or dysfunction and over-vaccination have been implicated by some researchers.

Treatment consists of surgical removal with wide margins. This can be difficult when tumors are located in areas such as limbs where there will not be enough skin to close over areas of wide excision. Biopsy of the mass will determine the grade of the tumor to help predict how the tumor will behave and whether clean margins were realized during surgery. Grade 1 tumors can usually be removed and normally they do not return. Only about 5 to 10% of Grade 2 tumors will return if surgery is done with a wide excision, but about 50% of Grade 3 tumors will return after surgical removal, even with clean margins.

Chemotherapy and radiation may be recommended for higher grade tumors. Unfortunately, there is certainly no guarantee these options will prevent recurrence. Many clients come to my office looking for alternative options to help slow the growth of these masses. While each pet is different, I have a few recommendations that I generally recommend.

  • A clean, commercial human-grade, whole-food diet low in starchy carbs or a home-prepared diet, or a ketogenic diet.
  • Palmitoylethanolamide or PEA, which is a fatty acid amide that supports the healthy function of mast cells and decreases inflammation and granule release.
  • Cannabidiol, which helps block pain and inflammation through cannabinoid receptors. There is some evidence that CBD can have an anti-tumor effect as well.
  • Mushroom supplements for their cancer-fighting aspects. Mushrooms fight cancer in four specific ways: They stimulate the immune system, help immune cells bind to tumor cells, reduce the number of cancer cells (cytotoxic effect), and slow down cancer cell growth. The Japanese government officially recognizes mushroom cancer therapy as a treatment.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids to decrease pain and inflammation. Omega-3’s work in conjunction with the endocannabinoid system to decrease spread of cancer throughout the body.
  • IP-6 400 to 800 mg daily – an antioxidant that plays and important role in regulating vital cellular functions, helps reduce tumor size and prevent spread
  • Artemisinin – also known as sweet wormwood, 100 mg twice daily for 11 days on, 3 days off, repeat. Cancer cells take up more iron then normal cells. Artemisinin is attracted to these high iron cells and selectively goes to them. Once inside the cancer cells it reacts with the iron causing free-radical formation which kills the cancer cells.
  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang – Mast cell cancer often arises if there is impaired blood flow to the skin. Without good blood flow the immune system cannot find and destroy the cancer cells that arise. This herb helps promote blood flow to the skin so the immune system can reach the mast cell cancer. In my experience this formula helps to reduce tumor size, occasionally shrink the small tumors completely and prevent formulation of new mast cell tumors.
  • Golden paste – turmeric has been shown to have cancer-fighting abilities. It is synergistic with the Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang.

From a traditional veterinary medicine standpoint, these tumors are commonly treated using steroids (prednisone, dexamethasone) and antihistamines (most commonly diphenhydramine). Side effects from long-term use of these drugs make them a poor choice for ongoing management, but they may have short-term benefits that might be worthwhile.

Assessing Canine Pain

October 6th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation


Chronic pain can significantly affect daily living activities in our pets. In a previous blog I posted photos and descriptions to determine pain in cats. Determining pain in dogs can be more difficult, as there can be wide variability between pet owner and veterinarian observations, as well as variability in how dogs express pain. Dogs may act differently at home and in the veterinary exam room.

Currently there are no biomarkers (biochemical or physiologic parameters) that reliably correlate to chronic pain. Physiologic biomarkers, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels, have very low specificity because circumstances other than pain such as fear, anxiety, and stress can also affect these markers.

Objective measurements are not widely used in veterinary practice. These might include force plate measurements, computerized gait analysis, and activity monitors. Unfortunately, even if these were utilized widely, they may only give insight into mobility parameters, with no measurement of internal pain. The most common chronic pain condition encountered in dogs and cats is osteoarthritis (OA); other conditions that can cause chronic pain include intervertebral disk disease, chronic pancreatitis, cancer, and other illnesses.

Things to consider when determining pain level in your dog include:

  • Ability to play
  • Appetite
  • Gastrointestinal function
  • Hygiene (ability to maintain cleanliness, urine or stool incontinence)
  • Interaction with family members
  • Presence of pain (flinching when touched, tension in the body, vocalizing)
  • Sleep (increased, decreased, interrupted by pacing or wandering)

One owner assessment questionnaire that has been widely used was developed in Finland by the University of Helsinki researchers. By filling out the questionnaire weekly, a pet owner can determine whether their dog’s mobility is improving or declining from week to week. Another assessment questionnaire has been developed by the canine arthritis association.

A more complete assessment of pain may be made using the BEAP Pain Scale created for pet hospice patients. By assessing appetite, ability and desire to move around, facial expressions, body weight, and vocalizations a pet owner can determine changes in pain scores from week to week.

Determining quality of life can be difficult for pet owners and veterinarians. By using these tools weekly it is possible to document changes in pet comfort that may help make decisions regarding improved pain management to improve quality of life.

There are many treatment options available for pain. Don’t let your pets suffer in silence.

About Dr. Morgan