Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How do I get thee to eat? Let me count the ways…..Part II

So we’ve talked about how we are at fault in making our pets overweight. We somehow get the idea that dogs and cats who have no control over the food they are offered would hold out for some theoretically yummier food that they haven’t ever seen or tasted before. Not.

But animals often stop eating when they are sick. Animals with acute conditions will give you signs of a new development by not eating, often before they show other signs of illness like vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, respiration difficulties, lethargy, etc. Those with chronic disorders signal that they are escaping good control or management by not eating well – often before primary signs of that disorder recur.

Let me list just a fraction of the reasons that a *sick* dog or cat won’t eat:
1. Dehydration. Which can be a part of many, many, many disorders.
2. Constipation. Animals absorb bacterial toxins from the accumulated feces through a compromised colon, and just feel under the weather. Or uncomfortable from the back-up.
3. Nausea. Another sign of many, many, many disorders. And not one that’s always easy to diagnose, except in those animals who are actually vomiting, but sometimes they will salivate or smack their lips.
4. Pain or discomfort. Also not easy to diagnose in some cases. If your general practitioner or internist can’t find the reason your pet isn’t eating, I think it’s a good idea to have a veterinary acupuncturist evaluate your pet using different methods- they often find real pain where no one else can using traditional Chinese medical examination techniques.
5. Infection – fever, pain, dehydration – all of these associated problems make animals with infections less likely to eat.

What I’ve listed above are general causes for loss of appetite. You may or may not be able to pinpoint those causes at home. Here’s the rub- you still don’t have the key to resolving the problem because a diagnosis is needed. This is why your vet wants you to come in for an exam, and usually labwork. Your pet is going to regain his or her appetite only after the renal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cystitis, food allergy, hepatitis, pancreatitis, ketoacidosis, diabetes insipidus, gastrointestinal obstruction, gas, back pain or other serious disorder is diagnosed and appropriately managed.

My particular challenge in practice as a nutritionist is to convince people that they need more than a yummy diet. Just this week, 2 clients expressed their surprise when I recommended labwork to find out why their pets weren’t eating. I’m very happy to charge an office visit and diet formulation fee, but I want your pet to eat my diet, and if he or she is sick, we are all going to lose. Your close attention to your pet’s appetite is a powerful diagnostic tool, and diet is a powerful treatment. Let’s keep them in their proper places.

So the take-home message is as I’ve said – if your pet isn’t eating, he or she is either over-fed or sick. Learn how to do a body condition score, keep ‘em lean, and if anorexia persists for longer than 2 days, get ‘em checked out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How do I get thee to eat? Let me count the ways…..Part I

I see so many pets presented for a picky appetite, you’d think I could make a living recommending a diet they will eat, right?

The overriding theme among the owners I talk to is that their pets won’t eat because they are tired of their diet. I think dogs and cats are honest and plain-spoken in their own ways, and I’ll break it down for you. They are either overfed, or sick. Repeat after me – if my pet isn’t eating s/he is either overfed or sick.

Let’s start with the overfed pets. I’ve talked a lot about body condition scores in the past week or two. What is your pet’s body condition score? If you don’t know, please go to my website and look at the body condition score charts from Purina:

So if your dog or cat is overweight, let me suggest a way of thinking from their perspectives. Lessee…..”I spend a bunch of time around the house hanging out, not doin much, not enough trips outside…….I get fatty meals that taste great and lots of them……I’m feelin a bit full and need to cut back… my bowl has even yummier stuff – this is great and I’m gonna eat all of it!......oh man I’m full – I’m gonna cut back…..Oh wow, now she’s putting the real gourmet stuff in front of me – what’s a dog to do?– I’ll eat it all….for awhile…. And why has it become some darn difficult to jump up on the bed or take long walks?”

Now the interesting thing here is that we make some assumptions about what dogs and cats understand about food. Let’s take a 5 month old puppy adopted from the shelter – this pup has probably never had anything but cheap dog food, may be enough of it and maybe not. We adopt him, put too much food in his bowl, and when he leaves some behind, we assume it’s because he envisions some delicious meal that he’s never had, but that must be perfect. And he’s holding out for it. Where’s the logic?

So we note that they eat less and less, but we ignore the fact that the ounces and pounds are piling on while we try to find foods they like even more! All the while, this lovely dog or cat has been trying to stay trim and we sabotage them every step of the way!

Here’s my advice: feed your pet a diet that is high in variety – different manufacturers and different ingredients (just avoid the exotic ones like venison, duck, rabbit, pheasant etc – more on that at a later date). Learn what your dog or cat likes and looks best on. Feed the amount that maintains him or her at a perfect body condition score. If the body condition score goes over 5/9 (or 3/5), don’t feed so much.

There are times these rules don’t apply. Dogs and cats who refuse to eat anything for more than a day or two, or who LOSE WEIGHT while refusing to eat aren’t healthy – they should be checked out right away. Dogs and cats with confirmed diagnoses of chronic conditions like kidney disease or pancreatitis need to be checked out if they don’t eat for a couple of days. More on this in the next post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New dog treat recall

Recall -- Firm Press Release
FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and market withdrawals from the firms involved as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company.

American Health Kennels, Inc. Announces a Voluntary Recall of Baked Dog Treats Containing Peanut Butter
4351 NE 11th Avenue
Pompano Beach, Florida 33064
1-954-781-0730 or

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Pompano Beach, Florida -- February 13, 2009 -- As a result of the expanded recall by the Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) Blakely, Georgia facility, American Health Kennels, Inc. has issued a voluntary recall for certain baked dog treats containing peanut butter supplied by PCA. The Blakely PCA facility is the subject of an ongoing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into potential Salmonella contamination of peanut butter. American Health Kennels, Inc does not know that any of the peanut butter from PCA that was used in our process was infected with salmonella. The parameters in our formulation and baking process (280F) are well in excess of the CDC’s guidelines (190F) for an effective salmonella bacteria kill; further American Health Kennels Inc. has had no reports of illness associated with our products.

We are effecting this recall in the interest of public safety even though we know our product is safe.

According to the FDA, pets with salmonellosis may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets may exhibit milder systems such as decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain while other pets may show no symptoms at all. Well animals can be carriers and transmit the bacteria to other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and exhibits these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

While the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products. It is important for people to wash their hands--and make sure children wash their hands--before and, especially, after feeding treats to pets.

The following items manufactured by American Health Kennels, Inc. are subject to this recall:

American Health Kennels, Inc., Cookie Bars: Creamy Peanut Butter UPC 725999522004; PB & Carob Chips UPC 725999523001; Lucious Carob UPC 725999521007; 4pack Cookiebar Assortment UPC 725999538005; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Peanut Butter Crunch 12oz UPC 725999001103; 16oz UPC 725999161104; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc. Bark Bars Peanut Butter: 1.5oz Jumbo UPC 725999000168; 2.25 Pillow Pack UPC 725999333105; 2.5lb canister UPC 725999005064; 5lb bulk UPC 725999001257; 6oz Smiles UPC 725999530009; Giggles UPC 725999530009

American Health Kennels, Inc., Christmas Stocking 6oz UPC 725999000175; Christmas Card Mailer UPC 725999513003; Birthday Mailer UPC 725999528006; “With Love” Hearts UPC 725999512944; Holiday Smiles UPC 725999222300

American Health Kennels, Inc., 100 Calorie 2oz Pillow Pack UPC 725999539101; 100 Calorie 14oz dispenser UPC 725999539200; Gravity Trial 2oz UPC 725999400166; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Bark Bars Minis UPC 72599953300; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Bark Bars Animal Snackers 3oz UPC 725999512098; 12oz UPC 725999512098; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Bark Bars Milk & Cookies UPC 725999333808; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Dog Ate My Homework Jumbo UPC 725999531006; 2oz Pillow Pack UPC 725999535004; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Bark Bars Naughty or Nice UPC 725999530092; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Bark Bars Carob & Peanut Butter, 2.5lb canister UPC 725999005071; 2.25oz Pillow Pack UPC 725999333402; 5lb bulk UPC 725999003251; Best Before: 11/09

American Health Kennels, Inc., Bark Bars Brownie Delight 12oz UPC 725999003107; 5lb bulk UPC 725999003251; Best Before: 11/09