What is Diet-Associated DCM?
Recently, however, veterinary cardiologists have begun to see an increase in DCM cases, both in dogs traditionally predisposed to DCM, as well as breeds not typically associated with DCM, such as small and mixed breed dogs. It soon became apparent that there was a nutritional correlation between these cases and the FDA, along with board certified veterinarians, began to study what is now being termed "Diet-Associated DCM".
What is Taurine and What Role Does It Play?
Taurine is an amino acid that is critical for normal heart function. Taurine deficiency was first associated with DCM in cats back in 1987. While some of the dogs currently diagnosed with Diet-Associated DCM do have low levels of taurine in their blood, we are also seeing numerous cases in dogs with normal taurine levels. Some experts are theorizing that something in the these dogs' diets may be blocking or interrupting proper taurine metabolism, thus resulting in DCM. What is especially important to note is that the majority of dogs who are diagnosed with Diet-Associated DCM do NOT have low taurine levels, indicated that taurine supplementation is likely ineffective at preventing this disease.
What Diets are Implicated?
As we do not yet know the exact cause, it's difficult to pinpoint specific diets as the culprit. Current thinking is that BEG diets (boutique companies, exotic ingredients and grain-free diets) are the cause. These BEG diets are generally made by manufacturers who lack a thorough understanding of the methodology of pet food manufacturing and the way nutrients interact with one another. There appear to be several problematic ingredients that are popular in these diets, including but not limited to legumes, potatoes, and other "exotic" ingredients. Dogs being fed unconventional diets (vegan, vegetarian, raw and homemade diets) are also being diagnosed with Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy and, as such, feeding a vegan, vegetarian, raw or homemade diet is not a safe alternative.
What Diets are Recommended?
Selecting a pet food in today's market can be quite daunting. Marketing plays an enormous role and often overshadows good nutrition. Labels are confusing and often contain useless information, the sole purpose of which is to appeal to consumers. Furthermore, ingredient lists by themselves are of little value as it is the nutrients contained within those ingredients, how they are metabolized, how they interact with one another, and how they respond to processing, that are true concerns. For more information about ingredients lists, please read Dr. Lisa Freeman's article "Deciphering Fact From Fiction: Evaluating a Pet Food Ingredient List ".
At this point, most veterinarians, veterinary cardiologists and veterinary nutritionists recommend the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) Global Nutrition Committees Recommendations on Selecting Pet Food. These recommendations are as follows:
When all is said and done, there are only 4 U.S. pet food brands that satisfy all criteria: Hill's Science Diet, Purina ProPlan/Purina One, and Royal Canin.
My Dog Has Been Eating BEG/Unconventional Diet, What Should I Do?
The most recent recommendations are to start with taurine testing (both whole blood and plasma) and an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). While most dogs with Diet- Associated DCM have normal blood taurine diets, it is still helpful to gather information as to which diets are resulting in low blood taurine levels so that we may better understand the causative agents behind this devastating disease. However, most cases of DCM do not cause heart murmurs or cardiac arrhythmias until much later during the course of disease. It is, therefore, recommended that your also dog have an echocardiogram performed to look for signs of DCM prior to the onset of clinical signs. It may also be that a blood test, known as a cardiac proBNP, may be helpful in screening dogs for Diet-Associated DCM but more research is needed at this time in order to determine the reliability of such a test.
Once these diagnostic tests have been completed, it is then recommend that you begin a slow transition to one of the brands that meets all of the WSAVA criteria. As in all things pet related, please contact your veterinarian for specific concerns regarding your own pet(s).
UC Davis Food and DCM Handout
Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dogs: What Do We Know?
Tufts' A Broken Heart: Risk of Heart Disease in Boutique or Grain-Free Diets
Tufts' It's Not Just Grain-Free: An Update On Diet-Associated DCM
FDA Alert - July 12, 2018
Taurine Deficiency and Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Golden Retrievers Fed Commercial Diets
The Association Between Pulse Ingredients and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Plasma and Whole Blood Taurine in Normal Dogs of Varying Size Fed Commercially Prepared Food
Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.
- George Eliot
When it comes to taking good care of you pet, there's no way around it, the bulk of the work is done by you, the pet owner. Regular veterinary care plays an important role in recognizing and preventing various diseases, but good husbandry (the care and keeping of animals) is essential in keeping your pet in tip-top shape.
Pet food is a very hot topic and there is A LOT of controversy when it comes to pet food these days. The short answer is that there is no one food to feed your pet. The goal is a palatable diet that is complete and balanced for the appropriate life-stage of your pet (for more information on how to chose the best food for you pet, check out Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Nutrition blog, Petfoodology).
What's just as important, however, is that your pet be fed the appropriate amount food to maintain an ideal body condition. Obesity isn't just a problem with humans as over 50% of the world's pet population is overweight or obese. Research in both human and veterinary medicine continues to discover the negative impact that obesity can have on overall health. Keeping your pet at an ideal weight can not only improve their quality of life but can lead to a longer life span as well!
Monthly Parasite Prevention
While there is only so much we can do to prevent the march of time and subsequent onset of age-related diseases, there is a whole heck of a lot we can do when it comes to preventing certain infectious diseases. Vaccinations are only one part of preventative medicine. Home administration of monthly flea, tick, heartworm, and intestinal parasite preventives is equally as important, possibly even more so, as heartworm and certain tick borne diseases can be fatal if left untreated.
Home Dental Care
Periodontal is the single most commonly diagnosed condition in dogs and cats and it's 100% preventable! While brushing your pet's teeth is the best way to slow the progression of periodontal disease, there are multiple techniques available to you as a pet owner that will help to reduce plaque and tartar formation. These include oral chlorhexidine rinses, dental chews and dental diets. Look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance as not all products are created equal and some products (we're talking bones and antlers here) can actually cause more harm than good.
High quality veterinary care is expensive so be prepared with a plan on how you will pay for a midnight visit to the emergency clinic or more expensive diagnostic testing. Pet insurance is a great option with many companies offering up to 90% coverage for accident and illness. Care credit, a low-interest, health-care specific line of credit, is also an excellent option to help manage the costs of unforeseen veterinary care. You can even keep it simple by putting aside a little bit of money every month into a separate account that you reserve for your pet. It doesn't matter how you plan ahead, just be prepared in the unfortunate event that an emergency or serious illness does strike.
When in doubt, ask your vet!
Your veterinarian is your partner when it comes to keeping your pet healthy. He or she has the knowledge needed to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Misinformation abounds on the internet (this blog excluded, of course) so please, don't hesitate to turn to us for anything your pet needs. We are always happy to help.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Benjamin Franklin
Regular wellness visits, also known as check-ups, are one of the most important steps in keeping your pet happy and healthy. Ben Franklin was absolutely right when he said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"; it's much easier to prevent disease than it is to treat it, and much less expensive, too!
The Physical Examination
Beyond just "shots", check-ups are a chance for us to fully examine your pet from nose to tail, carefully looking for signs of illness that might not be apparent to the untrained eye. Your pet can't tell us if his knee hurts in the morning or if her vision is getting cloudy, so we rely upon a comprehensive physical examination to better asses your pet's overall health. Some of the many things we may note during a physical examination include:
As critical as a physical examination is in determining the health of your pet, some things simply cannot be evaluated with hands and eyes alone. Diagnostic testing is necessary to look beneath the surface and evaluate for diseases invisible to the naked eye. Furthermore, many pet's may not exhibit symptoms until a disease is well under way. Most cats and dogs instinctively know better than to show any sign of weakness as, in the wild, that may make them more likely to end up as someone else's dinner!
Intestinal parasites. It is not uncommon for a dog to be infected with an intestinal parasite at some point in his or her life. Most often, dogs are infected by coming into contact with feces that contain parasite eggs and/or larvae. However, certain intestinal parasites, such as hookworms, are able to hatch and survive in the soil, thereby easily infecting dogs who come into contact with contaminated dirt. Many intestinal parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and giardia, can also be transmitted to humans. It is therefore recommended that all dogs and cats should under go, at minimum, annual testing for intestinal parasites. Fecal parasite testing has come a long way in the past several years. With new technology, we are now able to detect infections up to 30 days earlier, prior to the presence of any eggs in the stool.
Heartworm. Heartworm is no longer a disease of the South. In Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 1 in every 182 dogs tested positive for heartworm disease last year. With the nationwide rescue of stray dogs from southern states, we have, as an unwanted side effect, effectively spread heartworm throughout all 50 states. Fortunately, when diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, heartworm infection can be cured with little to no lasting physiologic effects. The American Heartworm Society, therefore, recommends yearly testing for heartworm disease.
Tick-Borne Disease. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years, it's likely that you're aware of the serious threat that Lyme Disease poses to both dogs and humans. What you may not have known is that Lyme Disease is not the only disease transmitted by ticks in our area. We frequently see Anaplasma and Ehrlichia infections in our patients and, due to the spread of the Lone Star Tick, are starting to see more cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We now routinely test for these tick-borne diseases as part of our annual parasite screening.
Feline Viral Disease. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) are contagious, untreatable viral diseases in cats. Both are transmitted through the saliva of infected cats. Outdoor cats are at an increased risk of contracting both FeLV and FIV and it is, therefore, recommended that outdoor cats be tested for these diseases on a yearly basis.
Wellness Labwork. Consisting of a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel, urinalysis, and in the case of cats, a total thyroid hormone level, wellness lab work allows us to get a glimpse at how well your pet's organs are functioning. In a recent 2017 study, nearly half of veterinary patients who were perceived as "heathy", by both their owners and at physical examination, were found to have abnormalities on wellness lab work. Our goal is to screen for early metabolic disease, prior to the onset of any signs or symptoms, and initiate treatment as soon as possible. Diagnosing disease in the early stages allows us to maintain a high quality of life for your pet and, in many cases, slow the progression of disease, allowing your pet to life a long and full life.
Blood Pressure. For those of you who are long-time pet owners, blood pressure monitoring may be fairly new. Over the past several years, technology has become available that makes measuring blood pressure in cats and dogs much simpler. Much like their human counterparts, both cats and dogs can suffer from high blood pressure and routine monitoring is recommend as part of a complete check-up.
The Q and A
Your pet's well visit is also a chance to have a good conversation with your veterinarian about any concerns you might have regarding your pet's health. You can guarantee that we're going to ask you all kinds of questions about what your pet does at home, but there are questions that you can (and should) ask as well!
Summer in New England is such a wonderful time of year but it does come with some potential hazards for our furry family members. To beat the heat and still enjoy the sunshine with your pets, here are some helpful tips:
Prevention is key! Heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks can ruin anyone's summer vacation. We recommend year-round treatment with parasite prevention but warm weather can definitely see an uptick in certain parasite activity (think ticks). There are a variety of new preventatives available through the clinic, so stop by or give us a call. We'd be more than happy to come up with a prevention plan that best suits you and your pet.
Watch for signs of overheating in your pet, such as excessive panting, increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate, drooling, weakness, difficulty breathing, and collapse. Higher than normal body temperatures (greater than 104 degrees) can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures. If your pet starts to exhibit any abnormal symptoms, please get him or her to a veterinarian right away!
Short-nosed, or brachycephalic, pets are less tolerant of high temperatures and are at a greater risk of heat stroke. Older pets, as well as those with underlying heart or lung disease or obesity, can also struggle in hot weather and will do much better indoors in front of the AC.
Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle! Even with the windows rolled down all the way, inside a parked car, the temperature can be up to 20 degrees warmer. Heat stroke can happy very quickly and can be fatal. Plus, leaving a pet in a parked car is illegal in Massachusetts and may result in a fine of up to $150 for first time offenders.
Supervise pets around pools. Believe it or not, not all pets are good swimmers. Pools also can contain chemicals, such as chlorine, which can be harmful if left on fur or ingested.
Keep unscreened doors and windows closed. Not all pets are aware of their surroundings and it is possible for them to fall out of any unscreened windows. Be sure to double check any screens to make sure they are well-secured as well.
Be cautious on hard surfaces, such as asphalt and pavement. Pets can easily burn the bottom of their paws. Try to stick to grass and dirt where possible and keep walks on hot surfaces to a minimum.
Barbeques and cookouts are perhaps one of the best parts of summer! Just make sure your pets don't get into any of leftovers. Corn cobs don't digest easily and can get stuck in a dog's intestinal tract, wooden skewers and cooked bones can actually penetrate soft intestinal tissues, and fatty foods can potentially cause diarrhea and pancreatitis.
Thunderstorms and fireworks are also a potentially source of stress for pets during the summer months. Thundershirts can be helpful and there are new anti-anxiety medications that can help to keep pets fear-free during these noisy events. Give us a call or swing by the clinic for more information.
February is National Pet Dental Month!
Dental health is a very important part of your pet's overall health. Dental disease can contribute to and, in some cases, be caused by other health problems. This is why we perform an oral examination on your pet every time he or she comes in for an office visit!
Causes of dental disease
When we think of dental disease in humans, most of us think of cavities. While cavities can occur in dogs and cats, they are much less common. We do, however, share many similar dental problems, such as:
Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats, an in fact, one of the most common diseases treated by veterinarians, period. Most pets will show signs of periodontal disease by 3 years of age. If untreated, periodontal disease can progress to a much more painful condition, and can ultimately result in problems with the liver, kidneys, and heart.
Periodontal disease starts with plaque. If plaque is left on the teeth it hardens into tartar. Tartar can be seen not only above the gumline, but below it as well. It is this "invisible" tartar that can result in infection and severe damage to the root and surrounding bone, ultimately requiring extraction of any affecting teeth.
Early periodontal disease can be treated by a thorough dental cleaning (under anesthesia, click here for more information as to why). Dental x-rays can also help to determine the extent of periodontal disease and whether or not extraction of affected teeth may be needed.
Signs of dental disease:
Your pet should evaluated by a veterinarian if you notice any of the following:
Periodontal disease is preventable! Daily brushing is the single most important thing in keeping your pet's mouth healthy. Just like us, your pet will still require regular cleanings by your veterinarian, but daily brushing can significantly reduce the frequency of such procedures.
This time of year is full of joy. It's a time of festive decorations, decadent food and celebrating with friends and family. But did you know that some of these things can also pose a hazard for your pet? Here are some tips to keep your Holidays happy and healthy for all members of the family.
Monday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Tuesday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Wednesday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Thursday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday 8:00 am to 12:00 pm
Arlington Animal Clinic
Arlington, MA 02474
Phone: (781) 646-0758
Fax: (781) 646-8724
After Hours Emergencies:
In the event of an animal emergency outside of our normal business hours we recommend:
Blue Pearl Specialty & Emergency Medicine for Pets - Waltham
180 Bear Hill Rd
Waltham, MA 02451
Blue Pearl Specialty & Emergency Medicine for Pets - Charlestown
56 Roland Street
Charlestown, MA 02129