What Pet Food Should I Feed?

March 26, 2017 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 6:13 pm

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Did you know that more than 15,000 brands of pet food exist in North America? The seemingly endless choices and the frequency of pet food recalls in the news have many pet owners concerned that they are making a healthy and safe food choice.

This post will walk you through the meaning of the words used on pet food packaging and in pet food ads. It may mean you’ll need to put on your reading glasses when you pick up that bag of kibble!

Have you ever heard of AAFCO? The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a nonprofit association of state and local officials that develop guidelines for animal feeds. Their standards are a good place to start.

Pet food manufacturers typically show one of two AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements on their label. Look on the back or the sides of the package, knowing that it’s probably in small print. The first statement is based on the “formulation” and verifies that the food contains all nutrients identified as essential for a pet’s health based on species (cat or dog) and life stage. Refer to the top label on the photo below and notice that it specifies “dog” and “adult maintenance”. The second statement requires that “feeding tests” be done using AAFCO procedures to prove that cats or dogs can live and thrive on the food. Refer to the second label on the photo, noticing that again “dog” and “adult maintenance” are specified.  So what’s the difference? The “formulation” statement requires that a sample of the food be tested in a lab. The “feeding tests” statement requires the additional step of using real cats or dogs in feeding trials. This more rigorous testing also creates additional expense.

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What does the pet food’s name tell you?  If an ingredient is used in the name of a pet food, at least 95% of the product must be the named ingredient—not counting the water added for processing and “condiments.” Counting the added water, the named ingredient still must comprise 70% of the product. If the name includes a combination of ingredients, such as “Chicken n’ Liver Dog Food,” the two ingredients must comprise 95% of the total weight. It is important to note that this rule only applies to ingredients of animal origin. Therefore, a product named “Lamb and Rice Dog Food,” must still contain at least 95% lamb, according to the FDA. (Source: dvm360.com)

Still with us on all the pet food terminology? Good, because this is where it gets interesting! Whenever a package of pet food has a fancy sounding name, read carefully. This is referred to as the “Dinner Rule”. If the term used is “dinner” (example: Chicken Dinner for Dogs”) or “entrée”, “formula”, “nuggets”, “platter” – the named ingredient must be at least 25% by weight of the food, but less than 95%.

So “Salmon Dinner for Cats” needs only be 25% salmon (whereas “Salmon Cat Food” must be 95% salmon) But wait – there’s more! (and if you’re like us, you’ll have to read this more than once for it to sink in) A combination of named ingredients, such as “Chicken and Turkey Entrée for Dogs” must equal 25% combined. The second ingredient must make up at least 3%.   Since chicken is less than 25% in this case, it may be the third or fourth listed ingredient. According to the FDA, “Because the primary ingredient is not always the named ingredient, and may in fact be an ingredient that the consumer does not wish to feed, the ingredient list should always be checked before purchase.” (Source: dvm360.com)

These little words make a big difference: “FOR” or “BY”.  Some pet food companies manufacture their own foods (labeled “manufactured BY”), while other pet food companies use a 3rd party company to manufacture their foods (labeled “manufactured FOR”). There are issues associated with 3rd party “contract packing”. While the companies who make the food in their own plant must have strict quality control in place, contract packers are not required to do independent testing. The contract packers can also change the supplier of the ingredients in the pet food at their discretion. As a result, the food can vary between batches and a consistent product between bags cannot be guaranteed. Also, many dog food brands share manufacturing facilities. This is why there are sometimes clusters of recalls with different food brands having the same contamination issue. This does not mean that foods packaged by a third party company are always bad. Companies that manufacture in-house, however, have more control and more accountability for the foods that are distributed under their name.

To summarize: Pet food packaging and labels contain a wealth of information, if you know what to look for.

  • First, the pet food should be labeled “Complete and Balanced” – this means the food meets the nutritional requirements of the AAFCO. Select a food that meets the AAFCO’s formulation test or, even better, has been subject to testing on real animals.
  • Don’t just depend on the name of the food – investigate further by studying the list of ingredients.
  • Choose a food based on your pet’s life stage.
  • Be aware of whether the food is manufactured by the pet food company, or by a third party company.
  • Discuss food choice with your veterinarian if your pet has any food allergies or special needs.
  • And of course, the food must be one that your pet will actually eat and that you can afford long term.


5 Things I Wish You Knew Before Euthanizing by Kelsey Beth Carpenter

March 1, 2017 — Pet Health Education, Uncategorized — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 9:29 pm

We don’t want to think about it, but one day it may just be staring us in the face.

A vet tech wrote this very thoughtful article and posted it on her blog.  The text of her article is below, but the original can be found here:

http://kelseybethcarpenter.blogspot.com/2015/12/5-things-i-wish-you-knew-before.html

 

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Euthanasia. The word itself makes all our stomachs drop. It is a gift to pets and a curse to owners – having the power to decide is something we are not comfortable with. However, when going through the euthanasia process with your own pets, you are in a position to make numerous decisions that can change the course of the overall process. As a Veterinary Technician, I witness euthanasias on a daily basis. Let me share from personal experience the 5 things I wish every pet owner knew.

1. It’s ok to cry.

People apologize to me all the time for crying over their pets. Whether it’s time to say goodbye, or you are simply having a hard time watching us draw blood on your dog, I wish you knew that I GET IT. Many of us who work in animal medicine (myself very much included) are totally neurotic, hypersensitive, and obsessive when it comes to our own pets. I may seem calm and collected while working with your cat, but that’s because it’s my job and I can’t afford to be any other way if I’m going to be good at it. You best believe that the second my dog so much as sneezes, I go into a total state of panic, lose all common sense, and forget everything I learned in tech school. So, when you are crying over the pet that you have loved for years, I assure you, I have nothing but respect for you. I respect how much you care. I respect your ability to make such difficult decisions. I respect your bravery. And please know that no matter how demonstrative you may be with your emotions, you are still keeping it together more than I would be in your shoes.

2. Be there, if you can.

I am lucky to work in a hospital where the vast majority of pet owners stay with their pets for the euthanasia process. However, this is not always the case. I urge you to stay with your pets, if you can, for multiple reasons. First, for my sake. One of the absolute most difficult things I do as a Veterinary Technician is take on the role of comforting and loving a pet as they pass on when their human is not there to do so. It is an incredible weight to try to act on your behalf, and it is emotionally exhausting in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. When you stay with your fur baby, I can focus on my own job, instead of doing both of ours. Second, for your pet’s sake. The vet can be a very scary place for animals – they don’t understand what all these noises and smells are, or why these strangers are poking and prodding them. Do you want them to experience that fear alone? And have it be their very last memory? Your pet doesn’t know what we are doing or why – they only know that you are there, that you said it’s ok, that you love them. I remember being a child, and how scary going to the doctor was, but how much more confident I felt with my mom there reassuring me. I imagine that is exactly how pets feel. If you can find the strength to be there, please do so. Please let your love, your touch, your presence be the last thing your pet experiences.

3. Keep the collar on.

One of the saddest things I witness during the euthanasia process is when humans take their pet’s collar off when they are still very much awake. To many pets, taking their collar off can have negative associations. For example, I know my own dog panics when I remove her collar as she knows it’s bath time! I want your pet to be as comfortable as possible, and that means not making any major changes immediately prior to euthanizing. Pets are much smarter than we give them credit for, and they pick up on the smallest of cues. The unknown is scary to your pet, so even if they don’t know what the cues mean, the idea that something is new and strange and out of the ordinary is enough to cause them some sense of anxiety. So, keep the collar on until your pet has passed. Let them go in the state that they always were.

4. Make it a celebration.

Bring treats. Tell stories. Laugh and cry at the same time. Surround yourselves with all his/her favorite toys and beds and blankets. It’s ok to cry, and it’s also ok to celebrate! I love when people tell me they took their dog to the beach or napped in the sun with their cat right before coming in to the hospital. This is going to be one of the hardest days of your life, but it doesn’t have to be for your pet. I promise that the more you celebrate your pet’s life, no matter how long or short, the easier it will be to continue to live your own once this is all said and done. It is ok to cry in front of your pet, to tell them how much you will miss them, to let them see you be absolutely beside yourself. I’m sure your pet has seen you at your worst before – I know mine has. But remember to celebrate, no matter how miserable you are. I promise it will make it easier for both you and your pet. What’s more, It will allow you to reflect on the euthanasia experience with positivity – you will remember that you celebrated and you will feel good about having done so.

5. Prepare.

I want this moment to be entirely about you and your pet. In order for that to be the case, several things must happen. First, you must understand the euthanasia process. If possible, talk to your Vet or Tech prior to coming into the hospital, or prior to starting the process – ask them to walk you through the steps of euthanasia so that you know exactly what to expect. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the process (or at least, as comfortable as you can be). Know what you’re walking into, so that your focus can be entirely on your pet. Second, take care of business ahead of time when possible. Sign any required paperwork. Pay the bill. Decide on after care. Even go so far as to prepare you next meal ahead of time, arrange a ride, rent a movie, invite friends over – whatever you think might help you cope when you return home from the hospital without your pet. The less you have to deal with during and after euthanasia, the better. I want you to be able to focus entirely on your pet during the euthanasia, and then entirely on yourself afterwards. Let’s do whatever we can to make that possible.

Every euthanasia is different. Some are planned, some are sudden. Some may happen in your home, some in the hospital. Regardless, they are difficult – to prepare for, to cope with, to experience. I hope these 5 things will help you to plan ahead and to make the process as beautiful as it can be for both you and your pet.

 

 

Reference:  http://kelseybethcarpenter.blogspot.com/2015/12/5-things-i-wish-you-knew-before.html

 



November is Pet Diabetes Awareness Month

November 1, 2016 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 9:39 pm

COULD YOUR PET BE LIVING WITH DIABETES?

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How is it diagnosed?

Because the signs and symptoms are not specific to Diabetes alone, we will likely need to do a General Health Profile bloodwork panel and Urinalysis.

How is it Managed?

Pets who are diagnosed with Diabetes are usually started on Insulin injections and special diets. Initially, your pet will be rechecked and Lab Work done frequently until levels can be regulated. After that, your pet will need to be reevaluated every three to six months to ensure that levels remain controlled.

Warning Signs/Who is at Risk?

Early signs of Diabetes, such as changes in hair coat, appetite and energy level are often over looked. As the disease progresses, the signs become more apparent and usually include excessive urination, extreme thirst or changes in weight. Diabetes can occur at any age but is most often seen in adult and senior dogs and cats.

If you think you may be noticing any of these signs, please give us a call and we will schedule an appointment for your pet.



What to expect when calling your Veterinarian

March 11, 2016 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 1:21 am

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“When you have a question about your pet’s health, what should you expect when you call your veterinarian?

During the chaos of our days, many of us find ourselves asking why things can’t just be easier. For example, you come home from work and your dog is acting “funny.” Can’t your veterinarian just help you over the phone? The kids will be home soon, you have to start dinner, and there’s no way you’ll make it up to the clinic before it closes.

The truth is, your veterinarian always wants you to call when something is going on with your pet, but legally and ethically there may only be so much he can do without examining the animal.

What should I do? Sparky has diarrhea.

Here’s the problem, legally a veterinarian must establish a relationship with you and your pet in order to treat the animal, and that requires a physical exam.

New client: So, if your veterinarian has never seen your pet—forget it. There is no prior relationship and therefore “treating” the pet over the phone is against the law.

Existing client: Say you and your pet have a relationship with your veterinarian, but there hasn’t been a physical exam in regard to this new condition. It’s often very difficult to describe things over the phone and be confident that you and your veterinarian understand things in the same way.

However, Heather Lewellen, DVM, says if she had recently seen the patient for something related, then she might feel more comfortable advising over the phone. “For example, if I started the dog on antibiotics for a skin infection and it develops diarrhea, I might be able to talk them through it over the phone, but I would still rather see it.”

That rash hasn’t gone away.

Calling about an existing condition the pet has recently been seen for by the veterinarian, opens the door a bit. As long as the veterinarian-client-patient relationship is well established and the animal has been examined for that problem, it’s up to what the veterinarian is comfortable with. Refilling (or even switching) medication, giving further advice and making recommendations (such as removing a bandage or feeding a bland diet) is fairly common.

Should I take Sparky to the ER?!?

Lewellen says the safe rule is if you think it’s an emergency—it is. Your veterinarian can direct you to the nearest veterinary hospital or will advise you to come into the clinic. However, if you are unsure if your pet’s condition is an emergency, your veterinarian can’t give you advice over the phone. She will recommend you come in and may ask questions regarding gum color, hydration, breathing rates or your pet’s attitude to help confirm if your pet needs immediate medical attention.”

Reference:  http://files.dvm360.com/alfresco_images/DVM360/2015/12/11/13e2172b-6ac5-4c5e-af64-36ccbdc942fd/phoning_it_in-AJF.pdf


Body Condition Score: How to tell if your pet is “fit” or “fat”

January 25, 2016 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 9:07 pm

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Boarding at Pickens Animal Hospital: Medical Requirements Effective January 1, 2016

January 5, 2016 — News — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 12:41 am

At PAH, we take pride in providing clean and comfortable boarding facilities for your companion animal while you are away from home. Equally important is ensuring the health and safety of both the boarding pets and our staff members.

The following requirements were established for the protection of the health and safety of all pets in our facility and our pet care staff. Following these guidelines also minimizes the chance of your pet being exposed to serious, life threatening diseases while staying with us.

Boarding is available only for our client’s healthy pets. Any pets that are ill or ailing are considered hospitalization cases and are accepted only after consultation with and approval by one of our veterinarians.

CATS

  • Annual Wellness Exam at Pickens Animal Hospital
  • Annual Vaccinations: Rabies & CVRC (Either administered at PAH or documented by a Certificate of Vaccination from a licensed D.V.M.)

 

DOGS

  • Annual Wellness Exam at Pickens Animal Hospital
  • Annual Vaccinations: Rabies, DHPP & Bordetella (Either administered at PAH or documented by a Certificate of Vaccination from a licensed D.V.M.)
  • Annual Intestinal Parasite Exam (minimum 3 days before boarding drop-off)
  • Current on monthly heartworm preventative documented in patient record or by proof of purchase

 

Note: Any boarding pet found to have fleas and/or ticks will be treated at the owner’s expense.

No intact female pets will be boarded during their heat cycle.

 



Is a Christmas Puppy a Good Idea?

December 3, 2015 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 9:22 pm

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Puppies and Christmas just go together, right? We’ve all seen the photos – the family gathered around the tree, Dad with his arm around Mom and both of them with glowing smiles as an adorable puppy with a huge red bow busily licks their kids’ faces. Their Christmas Day is warm, serene, and calm. Sounds like your house, right? Nope, not my house either.

Christmas is wonderful, don’t get me wrong – but it is usually busy and chaotic. And the noise and activity can be confusing and frightening to a young puppy. A frightened puppy is apt to soil on the carpeting, nip, or hide in hard to reach places. An adult needs to supervise the first interactions between the puppy and children, so that neither inadvertently hurts the other. These initial few days at home can be either a good beginning or the start of bad habits that can be very difficult to unlearn. Think of it this way – a puppy is about as demanding as any newborn baby and will require your time and attention.

Then there is the real possibility that while you are opening presents, welcoming guests and otherwise distracted, that curious puppy gets into something he shouldn’t ….. He finds some yummy food that will make him sick, chews on wrapping or decorations, or gnaws on electrical cords. The last thing you want to do on Christmas is make a trip to the emergency vet.

Puppies require planning.

(I’ll pause while you read that sentence at least three more times)

A puppy is a lifetime commitment and should be treated as such.

Selecting the right dog for your family should be a primary consideration. The fact is that all puppies come with vast amounts of cuteness. But what will the adult dog be like? Do you want a large dog or a small dog? Long or short hair? Shedding or nonshedding? High energy or a couch potato? Dogs come in an incredible variety of sizes, shapes, and dispositions and one of them will be the right fit if you take the time to investigate.

There are many other practical considerations; Where will the dog sleep? Who will be responsible for training? Are you experienced with dogs or do you need to learn how to train and socialize a puppy? Do you have time for training classes? Who will walk and exercise the dog? Who will get up in the middle of the night in the rain when the puppy needs to go “out”? (Just as a reminder, a puppy needs to “pee” every two to three hours) Is your yard secure? Will someone be available to take the puppy out at midday when everyone is at work or school?

And very importantly, is there room in your budget for a dog? Puppies require a series of vaccinations, dewormings, and neuter/spay surgery. Then for the rest of their lives, there are annual vaccinations and heartworm and flea medications. At some point, you will probably have a vet visit with a sick or injured dog. (Add to that planning list to look into insurance for the puppy.)

Having a dog can add so much joy to your family, while at the same time providing a real learning experience for children. It’s important that the children understand, however, that the puppy is not just another toy, another package to unwrap and discard, but a living, breathing, feeling being.

Instead of giving a puppy for Christmas, why not give a “puppy shower” with items that will be needed – a collar and leash, bowls, a bed, appropriate dog toys, a dog training book? Anticipating the day the puppy comes home will only add to the fun.



Why do you recommend a fecal test for my pet?

August 23, 2015 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 7:14 pm

Because we love our pets the way we do …..                        it’s best to know what’s happening on the inside:

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Have you ever wondered why PAH recommends regular fecal testing?  How is the test done and what exactly is tested for?

Simply put, a fecal exam is a check for intestinal parasites.

Here in the south, intestinal parasites are very prevalent for both dogs and cats. These parasites are transmitted to pets from everyday contact with the environment. We commonly encounter roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms and coccidia. Companion animals with these pests may have diarrhea, anemia, and/or weight loss.

In addition to caring for animals, Veterinarians play an important role in public health.  Fecal exams contribute to the health of humans and are especially important if your family includes very young children, senior citizens, or people who are immunocomprised (transplant patients or chemo recipients, for example).

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, 34% of dogs nationwide are infected with gastrointestinal parasites.  In the southeastern U.S., up to 54% are infected.   The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that 14% of people in the U.S. have been infected with roundworms. As a result of these infections, approximately 700 people lose their vision every year.

Okay, so it’s important to be sure that my pet does not have these parasites, but wasn’t last year’s test enough? I’ve been giving my pet monthly preventatives. 

Unfortunately, even a parasite-infected animal may not come up positive on a fecal test.  In fact, our staff does not refer to a test as “negative”, but rather as “no parasites seen”.  There is always the possibility of human or equipment error, but often the parasite itself is just good at not making itself known.  Worms are not always shedding eggs (which is what we are looking for in the stool sample).

Many of the monthly heartworm medications do prevent some intestinal parasite infections.  Different drugs, however, are effective on different types of worms and may not be effective at all with other types of worms.  There is also the possibility that a month could be missed or that your pet (unknown to you) spits out their medication.

For all these reasons, it is best to check for intestinal parasites as often as is reasonable.  For adult animals showing no signs of gastrointestinal illness, once a year is great.  For young animals, we’d like to check at least twice during their first few months of life.  More frequent tests may be advisable, based on the pet’s health and lifestyle.

How is a fecal test done?

You may collect a fresh stool sample and bring it in the same day.  A plastic zip-close bag works fine – you just want to be sure that the stool does not dry out.  Fresher stool samples result in more accurate test results!

If you can’t bring a sample in, the hospital staff can collect a sample using a plastic tool called a “loop”.  If we find that the pet’s gastrointestinal tract is “empty”, you can always bring in a sample at a later time.  Although our staff is as gentle as possible, this procedure can still be scary and/or uncomfortable for some pets.  These pets would probably prefer that you collect a sample at home.

Fecal tests involve looking for ova (eggs) in the stool sample.  Each parasitic worm has slightly different looking eggs.

PAH uses the most accurate technique available for performing fecal tests.  A small amount of fecal material is suspended in a solution that is supersaturated (heavy).  The eggs are light and float to the top.  The solution containing the fecal material is then spun in a centrifuge. The ova adhere to a cover slip, which is placed on a slide and is then viewed under the microscope using overlapping scans to be sure the entire slide is examined.  Note that this entire procedure requires both time and expertise!

A fecal exam can detect roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and sometimes tapeworms.  The exam does not always detect tapeworms, whipworms, and immature roundworms and hookworms.  A fecal exam NEVER detects heartworms – a blood test is required!

Why not skip the test and just treat my pet with a broad-spectrum dewormer?

Your Veterinarian needs to know the relative numbers of each type of ova.  Heavy infestations may be better treated with a different product.  Some types of intestinal parasites (Coccidia and tapeworms, for example) require a completely different medication.  It is important to target the treatment to the particular type and severity of parasitic infestation.  By treatment with a broad-spectrum dewormer, the Veterinarian risks missing a type of parasite or not being able to gauge the seriousness of the situation.

And YES, we check our own animals yearly.

Note: Information sheets about the various types of intestinal parasites can be found on our Pinterest page:  https://www.pinterest.com/pickensanimal/intestinal-parasites/


Microchipping: Protection for your Pet

July 27, 2015 — Pet Health Education, Uncategorized — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 9:40 pm

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At Pickens Animal Hospital, we are often asked to help owners look for a lost pet.  The owners are frantic and unsure who to contact and what to do.  And way too often, we are told that the pet had no ID tags and was not microchipped.

Up to 8 million animals end up in shelters every year. Unfortunately, only 15-20% of dogs and less than 2% of cats are ever reclaimed by their owners. One of the ways to increase the chances of finding your lost pet is having it microchipped.  (http://pets.webmd.com/features/microchipping-your-dog-or-cat)

When a veterinarian microchips your pet, a special needle is used to place a small chip under the animal’s skin, typically between the shoulder blades.  No anesthesia is required.  Each chip, approximately the size of a grain of rice, has its own unique number that can be read by a scanner.  Unlike a collar or tags, which can be lost or removed, the chip remains securely in place and will last for the lifetime of your pet.

The procedure only takes a few seconds – it actually takes longer to complete the paperwork.

And the paperwork is critically important.  If your pet is lost and ends up at animal control, a shelter or a veterinarian’s office, he/she will be scanned for a microchip (refer to the photo above).  If a chip number is detected, a phone call will be made to the company who registered the chip.  If the information the company has on file is current, then it is a simple matter of a phone call to notify the owners.

Unfortunately, many more chips are implanted than are registered and kept current.  This is why Pickens Animal Hospital includes registration as part of the price of a microchip.  Before you leave our office, we will assist with the completion of the paperwork and send it in to the company.  Without registration, the microchip is useless!

If your pet has a microchip and you have recently moved or changed your phone number, the information on file with the registering company needs to be updated.  If you do not know whom to contact, we will assist you in finding this information.

We often recommend that microchipping be done when your pet is spayed or neutered.  But it does not have to be done at the time of surgery.  Seeing the needle for the microchip concerns many owners because of its large size.  The needle, however, is very sharp and the sensation for your pet is similar to having blood drawn.  Many pets do not even flinch when they are “chipped”.

Microchipping is an affordable form of protection for your pet.  Please call the office for our current pricing.

Note that for the safety of our patients and our staff, your pet must be current on vaccinations to have a microchip implanted.



The Test Your Pet Should Take!

July 4, 2015 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 9:09 pm

Testing, along with prevention, is an important part of keeping our dogs and cats healthy and free from disease. This short video presents important facts to know about heartworm testing: