Archive for April, 2013

Dog biscuits recalled due to possible fungal contamination

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Breeder’s Choice has voluntarily recalled one batch of its Active Care Biscuits-Healthy Dog Treats because the biscuits weren’t properly dried before packaging, and mold may have developed on them. Symptoms of mold ingestion include loose stool, but no human or canine illnesses related to the biscuits have been reported to date

Breeder’s Choice, a Central Garden & Pet company, has issued a voluntary recall for a single batch of Active Care Biscuits-Healthy Dog Treats due to mold discovered in one of the lots of dog biscuits.

 The following product is included in the recall:

 Product Code/SKU/ Material #: BCP-080

 UPC Code:  0130104895

 Size: 24 oz.

 Product Name: Active Care Biscuits-Healthy Dog Treats

 Best Before Code: 19/Dec/2013

 Product and product lots that do not appear above have not been affected.

 According to a release from the manufacturer, the mold seems to have occurred due to varying dryer temperature settings for drying biscuits. This exposed the recalled product to excess moisture and has since been remedied.

 Pet owners who fed their pets the recalled biscuits should watch for symptoms that may develop. Common symptoms associated with mold exposure include gastrointestinal issues such as loose stool. At the time of this release, there have been no reports of human or pet illnesses associated with this recall.

 For more information, call the Central Customer Care line at (866) 500-6286 or visit

Unusual therapy animals make patients of all ages smile

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

According to the AVMA, therapy animals enhance people’s physical, social, cognitive and emotional function, but what’s important to the patients who encounter Napoleon the alpaca and Rojo the llama is that the animals make them smile. Lori Gregory of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver, Wash., brings the pair to visit Providence Child Center in Oregon and other health care facilities, and she calls the outreach an “addiction.” Social worker Kelly Schmidt expressed gratitude: “I never realized the power animals have to bring healing and joy to people like this.” CBS News (4/9)

Therapy animals like dogs, cats and horses are sometimes brought into health care facilities to help people suffering from illnesses or physical conditions boost their health and happiness.

Llamas and alpacas: Portland’s fluffiest therapists

At least one Oregon children’s hospital is now employing two unique therapy animals to help patients smile: an alpaca named Napoleon, and a llama named Rojo (see slideshow to the left for more pictures).

CBS affiliate KOIN in Portland, Ore., reports the unique pair light up every room they enter at the hospital.

“I never realized the power animals have to bring healing and joy to people like this,” said Kelly Schmidt, a social worker at Providence Children’s Center in Oregon. “I truly believe they are given a purpose more than just entertainment.”

The animals even ride the elevators (as seen in the video above).

Rojo is an “old pro” at making children happier, according to Schmidt. His owner, Lori Gregory, operator of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver, Wash., told the station that once at a local fair someone suggested her huggable llama become a therapy animal. The rest was history, and Gregory said like the patients, she too feels a rush when she introduces her animals — which are often dressed in funny hats and other silly outfits — at hospitals and other medical facilities.

“That’s why it started giving me chills and that’s when it kind of became an addiction,” she told KOIN 6 News. “When you realize that they have this amazing ability to create a natural response therapeutic-wise to get people to do things they normally wouldn’t do.”

Her stable also includes two other llamas named Smokey and Beni, and two more alpacas named Eduardo and Jean-Pierre.

On its website, Mtn Peaks says its animals have made more than 650 therapeutic visits to patients since the organization was founded in 2007.

Rojo has grown a following, even getting his own Facebook fan page.

 Therapy animals: Doggie docs, horse helpers, and more

Therapy animals, or animal-assisted therapy, is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Therapy can occur in a group setting or individually, and can benefit patient populations from the young to elderly, to those in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living homes and rehabilitation facilities.

Other examples of more unique therapy animals include miniature horses, elephants (which have been used in Thailand to help some children with autism), helper monkeys and animals with disabilities.

Do cats experience a sense of self?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

A viral online video that seems to indicate cats are capable of experiencing “mirror self-awareness” falls short of proving that felines have a true sense of self-identity, according to this analysis based on the research of University at Albany psychologist Gordon Gallup. While a handful of animals — including primates, dolphins and elephants — are able to recognize themselves in the mirror, the more likely explanation is that the tuxedo cat in the video is expressing defensive behavior, Dan Nosowitz writes. Popular Science (4/9)

Earlier today, Gawker posted a video of a housecat looking at itself in a mirror, slowly raising one paw and looking with wonder at its own reflection. “Smart cat figures out how mirrors work,” reads the headline. Let’s delve very deeply into a minute-long YouTube clip of a cat doing something weird!  Click the link below:

Mirrors are used in cognitive science in a task called the “mirror self-awareness test,” or MSR test. It’s a controversial experiment, developed back in 1970 by a University of Albany psychologist named Gordon Gallup who later wrote a scholarly article called “Does Semen Have Antidepressant Properties?” The MSR test requires that an animal be given some kind of visual oddity, usually a dot or two of color, on a part of their body only visible through a mirror (often on a part of the face or head). If the animal (or human!) sees their reflection in the mirror and attempts to touch the part of their own body with the unfamiliar dot of color, that animal is judged to have demonstrated mirror self-awareness.

Very few animals pass this test. All of the great apes–humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans–pass, as do some cetaceans like bottlenose dolphins and orcas (killer whales), and a few oddballs like the elephant and magpie. Some other animals demonstrate partial self-awareness–gibbons and some macaques, for example, will sometimes become confused and gesture at their faces, which does not constitute a pass of the test but does indicate that they understand that something odd is going on. A few monkey species, pigs, and corvids (crows, ravens, jays) demonstrate a similar partial understanding of the self.

Humans, interestingly, change in their perception of themselves; before the age of about 18 months, humans have either no or only partial success in the MSR test. Before 18 months, they’ll react with curiosity or avoidance.

Cats have never once demonstrated that they have any sense of self at all. Reactions of cats to being shown their reflection in a mirror vary; some will ignore the reflection, some will attempt to investigate behind the mirror to find the cat that is presumably back there, some will act wary or aggressive towards what appears to be another cat able to counteract its own gestures perfectly. This is a freaky thing, if you don’t know that it’s you in the mirror.

The cat in this video is behaving defensively, with the “anxious” posture laid out in this helpful chart of feline body language. Notice that its ears face entirely toward the “threat,” that its tail is puffed up and often pointing downwards–these are cat signals that mean “defensive aggression.” Its attack posture is kind of…not very threatening, moving slowly and warily like that, but it’s still quite clear why it’s acting the way it’s acting. It’s not waving at itself, it’s gesturing threateningly at the scary cat staring out at it from a few feet away.

 For a video to see a cat react to it’s reflection, click the following link:

The mirror test is controversial in the psychology field; there’s the problem of children or animals not caring that there’s a spot on their faces, and so providing a false negative result when they don’t bother to clean it. It’s also been theorized that the test is unfair for animals that rely more on other senses than sight. The domestic dog, for example, relies much more heavily on smell than sight.

There’s also the more philosophical problem of, what does this actually even say? Really, the only thing that it proves is the ability to recognize one’s self in a mirror. This paper argues that you can’t really extend success in the MSR test to represent full self-awareness.

Sorry, wary waving tuxedo cat. You still haven’t demonstrated self-awareness. But you are very cute.

Search dogs to help put dent in illegal wildlife trade

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Specially trained wildlife detector dogs, named Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket, have just completed training alongside handlers and will soon begin working at important U.S. import sites including UPS’ global air hub in Louisville, Ky. Other cities where the dogs will conduct searches include Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago. The program is an effort to address the increasing trade in body parts of protected species. San Jose Mercury News (Calif.) (free registration)/The Associated Press (4/9)

 LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The U.S. government wants to try to do something about a growing trade in items such as elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn and is enlisting the help of another animal to accomplish that.

The first class of wildlife detector dogs and their handlers have finished training to search for protected species and will soon be stationed at key ports of entry around the country, including Louisville, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago. The four retrievers are Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official Ed Grace says some species are being dangerously threatened by rapid growth in global trade.

Louisville is among the locations being targeted because the city is home to UPS’ worldwide air hub. Fish and Wildlife says the dogs may visit facilities elsewhere as well.

Tool designed to shed light on feline cardiac health, quality of life

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Tufts University veterinarians Lisa Freeman and John Rush have developed a cardiac health questionnaire and scoring system for use in cats, and they say it helps veterinarians and owners start conversations about overall cat health in addition to providing an accurate assessment of feline cardiac disease. Symptoms of feline cardiac disease are subtle because cats are adept at masking their symptoms, Dr. Freeman says. She says the Cats Assessment Tool for Cardiac Health gives veterinarians another way to refine their assessment of feline health. The research was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Cats hold their own counsel. Independent, solitary, even mysterious, they’ve long fascinated their owners with their aloofness. But the very qualities that appeal to their human companions can also make it difficult to tell when they’re sick. One of the most common feline ailments, for example, is heart disease, which affects 10 to 15 percent of cats. All too often, though, the signs are noticed too late.

“One of the challenges with cats is that they hide things very well,” says Lisa Freeman, J86, V91, N96, head of the nutrition service at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “They often don’t get taken to the vet and find out they have heart disease until the cases are more advanced.”

Even when heart disease is diagnosed, owners still can find it difficult to tell how much their pets may be suffering. “They might keep eating and acting normally,” she says, “but when owners look back, they may realize they missed quite subtle signs.”

For that reason, Freeman and Tufts veterinary cardiologist John Rush have developed a questionnaire for cat owners and veterinarians to determine how heart disease affects feline quality of life. The survey, known as CATCH (Cats Assessment Tool for Cardiac Health), will be helpful in testing new treatments for heart disease.

Studies of humans with heart disease have found a relationship between quality of life and . In , where euthanasia is an option, quality of life can help owners make end-of-life decisions about their pets.

Studies published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2010 and the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) in 2008 found that 93 percent of cat owners and 86 percent of dog owners, respectively, would trade a longer life for their pets for a shorter, higher-quality one.

Another study by Freeman and other researchers published in JAVMA in 1999 found that 79 percent of dogs that were euthanized were considered by their owners to have had fair or poor quality of life—most likely the case with cat owners as well. Seven years ago, Freeman and Rush helped design another questionnaire to help owners of dogs with heart disease assess their pets’ quality of life.

The 18-point canine questionnaire asks owners to identify symptoms—difficulty breathing, coughing and trouble eating and sleeping—as well as behavioral changes, such as less time spent with family and the inability to play fetch. Called FETCH (Functional Evaluation of Cardiac Health), it rates dogs on a scale of 0 to 5—with 0 meaning “not at all” and 5 meaning “very much”—for an overall score of 0 to 65.

Adapting the canine questionnaire for cats proved challenging. While some criteria, such as difficulty breathing, could signal heart disease in both cats and dogs, others, such as coughing, are uncommon in cats with cardiac problems. Still other behaviors, such as difficulty taking medicine or seeking out solitary locations, could point to cardiac problems in dogs, but are common in healthy cats.

Freeman, Rush and their colleagues piloted the questionnaire with owners of 75 cats at three veterinary hospitals: Tufts’ Foster Hospital for Small Animals and hospitals in Pennsylvania and California. After tweaking some of the questions, they administered it to a larger group of 275 cat owners. In the end, the researchers found a close correlation between the results of their survey and the International Small Animal Council classification for feline heart failure. They published their findings in JAVMA last spring.

The CATCH score also provided broader information about the general well-being of cats beyond the diagnosis of heart disease—data that could offer a better basis for determining the effectiveness of new drugs and other treatments in clinical trials. “We are really working on better ways to diagnose, prevent and treat heart disease in cats, and this is just one of our tools to get to that goal,” says Freeman.

In addition to its benefits for clinical research, Freeman says could use CATCH to assess overall quality of life in their pets. In fact, the CATCH score might be less important than the questions themselves, which may give owners and their veterinarians a jumping-off point for conversations about the well-being of an animal.

“A lot of vets have expressed interest in this because cats are so hard to evaluate,” Freeman says. The CATCH questionnaire may make a little less mysterious—at least when it comes to diagnosing —but no less captivating to owners who care about their pets’ quality of life.

Journal reference: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association search and more info website

Provided by Tufts University search and more info website

Ailments of the lower urinary tract in cats

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

catCats are frequently brought to the veterinarian because they are having difficulty urinating, which may be accompanied by urinating outside of the litter box, urinating more or having blood-tinged urine, writes veterinarian Roxanne Vandermeer. A common issue is idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease, writes Dr. Vandermeer, who points out that other conditions, such as cystitis, urinary tract infection and cancer, must be ruled out before diagnosing FLUTD. Any cat straining to urinate should be evaluated by a veterinarian who will perform an exam and an analysis of the cat’s urine and may recommend further testing. Fitness Goop (4/3)

One of the most common reasons cats are taken to their veterinarians is because they are straining to urinate. In addition to the straining, these cats are often showing other clinical signs like increased frequency of urination, urinating in inappropriate places and passing only small amounts of urine at a time. Sometimes the owners also report noticing blood or a red/pink discoloration to the urine. All of these signs can be seen for multiple different reasons including bladder stones, crystals in the urine, cystitis (bladder wall inflammation), urinary tract infections, urethral plugs, trauma, neoplasia (cancer) and idiopathic (cause unknown) feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), to name the most common.

The majority of cats presenting with the above-mentioned clinical signs fall into the idiopathic FLUTD category. Before a cat can be said to have idiopathic FLUTD the other recognized causes of urinary tract disease have to be ruled out. Even after extensive work up and diagnostics more than half of these cases yield no specific cause and can thus be classified as idiopathic FLUTD.

In order to diagnose a cat with lower urinary tract disease your veterinarian will want to do at least a physical exam and a urinalysis. Additional testing that may be indicated include: a urine culture, blood work, x-rays and ultrasound imaging.

Treatment of feline lower urinary tract disease depends on the underlying cause, if one can even be identified.

Bladder stones either need to be removed surgically or may be amendable to dissolution with an appropriate therapeutic diet depending on what the stones are composed of.

Some crystals in the urine can be normal but if they are found at abnormally high levels or if an abnormal type of crystal is identified then diet modification may be all that is needed to resolve the problem.

Cystitis (bladder wall inflammation) in cats is usually idiopathic, in other words we can’t identify a specific cause. It’s believed that stress plays a major roll in its development and that is why we often see a flare up of cystitis in cats that have recently moved to a new home or if a new family member/pet/roommate has come into the picture. Minimizing stress, optimizing litter box hygiene, encouraging water intake, diet modification, changing the type/location of the litter box and litter can all be beneficial. This can be a painful condition and these cats are often given some pain medication initially. Weekly subcutaneous (under the skin) injections of medication that promotes the protective lining of the bladder can be given once per week for at least 4 treatments.

Bacterial urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are actually quite rare in young to middle aged cats. Cats appear to be innately more resistant to bacterial UTI’s than dogs due to their differences in anatomy and the higher concentration of their urine. Urine also has substances that inhibit bacterial colonization. A urinary tract infection can be diagnosed via a urine culture and then treated with an appropriate antibiotic based on the culture results.  Urinary tract infections are more common in older cats that have other conditions that predispose them to UTI’s such as diabetes or kidney disease.

Urethral plugs are usually composed of either crystals or a proteinaceous substance and can cause a life-threatening blockage of the urethra (the duct by which the urine is conveyed out of the body from the bladder). This obstructive form of feline lower urinary tract disease is seen almost exclusively in male cats.  If you notice your male cat straining to urinate but producing no urine you must get him to a veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will have to sedate or anesthetize your cat to remove the blockage and hospitalize him for at least 24 hours to make sure that he does not re-obstruct. 50% of these cats will have a recurrent obstruction in their lifetime.

Trauma to the urinary tract can be sustained in many ways, the most common of which is cats that are hit by cars or that fall off balconies. A bladder rupture requires surgical intervention whereas less severe trauma may be amendable to more conservative medical management.

Cancer can affect the urinary tract and needs to be properly characterized and staged before the best treatment options can be determined.

Idiopathic feline urinary tract disease, which is the most common form of disease affecting the lower urinary tract in cats, is treated in much the same way as cystitis. Diet modification, pain medication, stress reduction, anti-inflammatory agents, glucosaminoglycans (promote the protective lining of the bladder), and litter box hygiene are all used to treat and manage this disease. This can be a very frustrating disease for owners and veterinarians alike because of the lack of an identifiable cause and the high rate of recurrence despite treatment.