In the recent JAVMA May 2015, there was an article regarding what is listed on the pet food label and what is actually in the food when tested. I was a bit shocked by the findings, however I am not surprised that there may be some degree of cross-contamination in pet food facilities (much like the label on human foods that states “made in a facility that processes peanuts.”)

However, according to the JAVMA article, “about 40 percent of dog and cat foods tested in a recent study (Food Control 2015; 50: 9-17), may have contained meats different from those listed on the product labels.” WOW! 40 percent is a huge number! The tests conducted by this study were based on DNA results of the animal products found in the pet foods.  Another reference was published by Laura Allred, PhD, who showed in her 2012 study that via ELISA testing 10 out of 21 commercial dog foods contained species that were not declared on the label or WERE MISSING SPECIES THAT WERE DECLARED! That’s right, that bag of dog food with chicken listed as the second ingredient may not even contain any chicken. To me, that is by far the worst.


What is the significance of this you may ask? Well, it may not be a huge issue if a pet gets a little bit of chicken, etc. even if it isn’t listed on the label, UNLESS that pet has a food allergy. We feed our own dogs limited ingredient diets although they don’t have food allergies, but we pay around $80 for a bag of dog food. That is a lot for a bag of food, and yes I expect what is listed on the bag to actually BE IN THE BAG! Apparently, the whole “you get what you pay for” scenario may not apply here.

The article does not list specific brands of food, and I will not go into my own opinion on food brands here, but I do hope that these findings will shed some light onto the deception that is occurring, even if it is not intentional. Better quality control should be occurring. The FDA focuses more on safety of products (don’t get me started on this either), so that while the system is supposed to ensure that the ingredients in the food are safe, the regulations of enforcing that what is actually in the food is matching the label falls to the wayside. So the food may be supposedly safe, but it is considered “food fraud,” according to John W. Spink, PhD, the director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University.

Out of all type of food tested (dry food, treats, and wet food), wet food had the most added AND missing ingredients. It would be impossible to test DNA samples on every product, but perhaps in the future, the standards will be set higher to have better quality control.

Why you can’t trust pet food labels

Not all brands follow meat regulations: The Chapman Study

Recovering from Surgery

Recovering from Surgery

Veterinary technicians are often the first person of contact for pets during emergencies or post-operative in the hospital. Therefore it is critical that a veterinary technician can recognize the signs and symptoms of pain.  Pain management is an important part of patient care, and by implementing pain scoring in the monitoring of hospitalized patients, patients may receive the analgesia and attention they need.  Animals may be very stoic and pain can sometimes be difficult to assess. The following suggestions are meant to help with pain scoring in our pet patients. Some physical characteristics below such as panting or trembling may not be pain related but may be due to nervousness or other medical disease so these symptoms are to be interpreted based on the whole status of the patient.


General physical characteristics of pain may include (but are not limited to):

  • Vocalizing (crying, whining, etc.)
  • Inability to lay down or rest comfortably or not
    moving when awake
  • Increased panting, agitation, trembling,
  • Stiff gait or lameness
  • Hunched or abnormal posture or “praying”
  • Chewing or licking at a painful area
  • Depression/decreased responsiveness to the owner
  • Lack of self grooming in cats
  • Carrying tail in a low position
  • Decreased appetite
  • Urinating or defecating inappropriately because
    they don’t want to get up or posture
  • Attempts to bite at the owner or at a caregiver
  • Hiding

It is important to treat predictable pain which means that if an animal has a surgical procedure or has a medical condition that is known to be painful (such as pancreatitis or glaucoma), that analgesia is given regardless of whether the animal may “seem” painful (i.e. just because a pet is quiet does not mean they are not in pain). As a veterinary technician, look for physical characteristics of pain. Take the patient’s heart and respiratory rates. Tachycardia, tachypnea, or increased blood pressure may be seen when an animal is in pain (although these may not always be consistent; an animal that
is exhibiting painful behaviors but has a normal heart and respiratory rate is likely painful). The bottom line is that if you see characteristics of pain, notify the veterinarian so that the patient may be further assessed and appropriate analgesia may be administered.

AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats



Anesthesia is routine in practice. However, it is important not to become complacent. All patients tolerate and react to anesthesia differently, and monitoring every patient closely is extremely critical.

IMG_0277IMG_0277IMG_0277This is Spunky. He is a 6-month old stray kitten that was brought in for a neuter and first FVRCP vaccination. He did well under anesthesia during his neuter and upon recovering was given his vaccine. A few minutes after receiving his vaccination, he acutely stopped breathing. Luckily the technician who was closely monitoring him was astute enough to recognize something was wrong. The doctor in charge immediately began chest compressions and ventilations as his heart had stopped and he was in cardiac arrest. Please take a moment to review CPCR technique.  Review on CPCR Technique

Cats rarely have vaccination reactions, but when they do, they are typically very severe and anaphylactic in nature. Spunky was given the appropriate medications including atropine, epinephrine, a small bolus of fluids, and was also given Dex SP since a vaccine reaction was suspected as the underlying cause. Luckily, Spunky’s heart began beating again and he has made a great recovery. It is very rare for a pet to survive cardiac arrest. The ones that do are typically the young and otherwise healthy patients and appropriate intervention is absolutely critical. Spunky did have cortical vision loss for about 3 weeks after this incident which is caused by temporary oxygen loss to the brain. He has now regained most of his vision, and he is a happy and playful kitten at home.

There are 2 lessons to be learned from this. First, it is best to not give vaccinations while a patient is under anesthesia. Unless the patient is extremely fractious or aggressive, it is best to just administer them on another day, or before they go home once they are completely recovered from anesthesia. Secondly, you can never let your guard down when watching patients under anesthesia- including before (after premedication), during, or after the procedure. Veterinary technicians are vital to helping watch the patients in the hospital and knowing what to do in an emergency situation truly is a matter of life or death!


dujoThis coming Saturday, May 30th at 1:00 EST, Dr. Mauricio Dujowich will present the topic “Veterinary Surgery-What to Expect” on the  Animal Airwaves Live call-in radio program on WUFT-FM.  The episode was prerecorded this week so there will not be a live call in section during the show.   Just as in people, many diseases as well as traumas experienced by pets require surgery for the best prognosis. Dr. Mauricio Dujowich, a veterinary surgery specialist, will discuss some of the more common situations requiring surgery, techniques now being used to treat various conditions, why a team approach to problem solving benefits animal patients and what pet owners should know if surgery is recommended for their pet. Listeners can also tune into the show online for live streaming during the broadcast:


To view upcoming and previous topics and to listen to past shows, visit the Animal Airwaves Live! 



Pets will lose about 75% of their renal function before azotemia is noted on the labwork. This is why staging is important to determine how far underlying renal disease has progressed, so that supportive measures and appropriate intervention can take place.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic renal disease is kidney disease that has been going on for months or years (longer term). This is different than acute renal failure which occurs suddenly and more severe (such as with antifreeze or lily toxicity). There are many possible causes of chronic kidney disease including:

  • Chronic bacterial infection
  • A defect of the kidneys at birth
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Autoimmune disease (such as lupus, glomerulonephritis, or amyloidosis)
  • Infectious diseases (such as Lyme or Ehrlichia)
The intricate vasculature of the kidney is illustrated in this model.

The intricate vasculature of the kidney is illustrated in this model.

The kidneys contain thousands of nephrons (the functional unit of the kidney). The kidneys help to filter blood waste (from toxins, foods, cells, etc.), conserve water and electrolytes, and regulate calcium and Vitamin D levels. They also produce erythropoietin which helps the body to make new red blood cells.


Pets can have many symptoms, most commonly including decreased appetite, occasional vomiting, weight loss, and increased drinking and urinating.


Labwork often shows anemia of chronic disease (non-regenerative), elevated BUN and creatinine (azotemia), increased phosphorus, dilute urine, proteinuria.

Staging is helpful to determine severity of the renal failure. The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) provides a helpful algorithm for staging renal failure in pets. IRIS Kidney Disease Algorithm

Tests to help determine the underlying cause of kidney disease include x-rays or ultrasound (to look at kidney structure and look for kidney stones), a renal biopsy in cases that are suspected autoimmune or congenital, urine culture and MIC, blood pressure, and urine protein:creatinine ratio.


Treatments can include diets limited in protein, phosphorus, and ash, phosphorus binders if the phosphorus is high, weekly (or more frequent) subcutaneous fluids for renal support, antacids (such as famotidine), and others. The treatment plan varies per patient and is tailored to each individual based on lab findings, stage of renal disease, underlying complications (such as hypertension), and clinical status.

IDEXX Advanced Diagnostics for Kidney Disease


Feel the Breeze!

"Pam" the dog feelin' the breeze!

“Pam” the dog feelin’ the breeze!

Simply put, it isn’t enough for a dog to live in a home with a yard. A yard to play in does not equal a “daily walk.” I am not saying it isn’t fantastic, because it is. I am just saying a daily walk and living in a home with a yard are not synonymous.

Often, clients come in with complaints of behavioral issues such as barking, fighting or dominance issues with other dogs in the home, or chewing up things around the house. The first question I always ask is, “How many walks does he/she get per day?” And most of the time there is silence because the answer is none. Or the response is, “None…but we have a backyard.”

Dogs still need to have their minds stimulated. They need to get out of the house and go for a walk, or a ride in the car, or have a pet play date.

When we as humans get home from work and are tired and ready to relax, the dogs are excited and happy to see us! They are ready to start their activities with us and be busy. Remember, they have likely been sleeping all day or just waiting for us to come home. Their whole world revolves around us. So as hard as it might seem to get up early for a morning walk, or to go for that evening walk after a long day, just commit to it for yourself and for your dog. It is good bonding time and frankly a necessity for the whole household!

It reminds me of a quote I recently saw, “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person (or dog in this case) you may be the world.” -Bill Wilson


What is Plague?

Plague is a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. You may have recently heard about it in the news, as the first case of a dog to human transmission was reported in Colorado.

Dog Transmits Plague to Its Owner

Yersinia pestis photomicrograph, courtesy of NIAID

Yersinia pestis photomicrograph, courtesy of NIAID

How is it Transmitted?

Plague is most common in the Western to Mid-Western states, and is mostly seen where there is a high incidence of infected rodents such as prairie dogs. The bacteria are carried by fleas. When an infected flea bites an animal, the bacterium is transmitted and continues to spread in this manner, by the flea taking meals from infected animals and going on to the next. Dogs or cats running around outside chasing or eating vermin are at a higher risk of getting infected as the disease is transmitted through infected bodily fluids. Cats are very susceptible and are a more common source of infection in humans.


In humans, symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, weakness, coughing, enlarged lymph nodes (bubos or Bubonic form) and/or the development of pneumonia. The pneumonia form (Pneumonic plague) is the most contagious as it most often occurs from inhaling bacteria due to close contact with infected people or animals. Symptoms usually occur within 1-3 days after being exposed to the disease.

In cats, the most common presentation is high fever and abscessed lymph nodes (submandibular lymphadenitis). Cats can spread plague to humans through bites, scratches, contact with fluids ( it is not recommended to aspirate the lymph nodes if plague is suspected without proper protection), or infected fleas may be brought indoors via the cat or dog.

Contact your local health authorities about how and where to send tissue samples, and make sure to use proper protection if samples are taken from an animal.


Plague is treatable with antibiotics. However, late diagnosis can prove fatal, as the disease can be overlooked. The most common drugs used for treatment include doxycycline or gentamycin.

The CDC provides an excellent presentation on plague:

Centers for Disease Control Plague Training Module


We see lots of senior pets in practice. Here are a few pointers you can share with your clients!

1) Good Nutrition– all senior pets need a diet that is tailored to keeping them healthy. All foods are not created equal. You must talk to your veterinarian about which diet is best for your pet. For example, a dog with early kidney disease should be on a lower protein diet. A dog with constipation issues may need more fiber. Less active dogs may need a senior food with lower calorie content.

2) A Good Quality Bed– a nice supportive bed to lay on is beneficial to their joints and muscles as they age. While they may prefer to rest on the cool tile, having a bed available to them is important. Crib mattresses make great dog beds (they can’t be soiled, they have plenty of room, and they have great orthopedic support)!


Lucy out for a “stroll” in her stroller. Her walks are limited after neck surgery.


3) A Daily Walk– most dogs benefit from daily walks. Just to get out and stretch their legs and move around helps with mobility longer term. Nothing rigorous is necessary. Just getting out for a walk is good for body and mind and is special bonding time between dog and owner. Many senior pets will just sleep all day, so getting them up for that walk helps to keep them mobile. If your pet can’t walk for some reason or tires quickly, consider taking them out for a “stroll” instead or when they get tired! If they are not used to going for walks, start small. A walk down to the end of the sidewalk or block may be a good place to start until you know their limits. Never go out when it is too hot. Older dogs overheat more easily and may exert themselves more.

4) A Weekly Massage– gently massaging your dogs legs and back muscles has many benefits. Increased blood flow, anti-inflammatory effects, endorphin release, and stimulation of the immune system are just a few of the benefits this can provide. Daily is great, but even once a week is helpful. Who doesn’t love a massage?!

5) Joint Supplements– glucosamine is used to protect joint cartilage and helps to prevent progression of arthritis. Even though it may be difficult to see direct evidence of the benefit of joint supplements in some cases, it can help the joints and may help with longer term mobility.

6) Routine Grooming– Pets still need routine grooming and care as they age, and sometimes more often.  When they are routinely groomed, they feel better. If it is too stressful to take them to the groomer, consider having the groomer come to you (mobile service).

7) First Dibs– If you have a senior pet, there is a good chance you may also have a younger dog in the house. While the youngster may try to be dominant, allow the older pet to get first dibs. Let them be first to have their food bowl put down, first to have their leash put on, first for their treat, etc.

8) Good Oral Care– as pets age, we tend to be more reluctant about upkeep on the teeth.  Disease often starts in the mouth. Bacteria and chronic gingivitis are a bad combination and can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, or other systemic illness as the bacteria gets seeded into the bloodstream. Continue to have routine dentals as long as your pet is healthy and your veterinarian recommends doing so. Brushing, appropriate dental-friendly treats, and sometimes oral rinses can help in keeping the gums healthy.

9) Ramp for bed or couch, minimize stairs– We see a lot of injuries in the clinic of older dogs who jump off the bed or couch and cause serious injury to one of their legs or their back. Getting them used to some stairs or ramp up to these areas can be a great way for them to keep their independence and avoid injury. For arthritic dogs, use a baby gate to keep them from going up and down the stairs multiple times a day if you have stairs in your home.

10) Extra TLC– We all get busy in life. Take that extra few minutes when you can to really spend it with your pets. Look at them, talk to them, play with them, pet them. These may seem like obvious things, but in many households, things get hectic and time gets away. If a new pet comes into the household, make sure to give the same or more attention to your senior pet. Often when a new dog or puppy comes into the house, the older dogs get left out. Be aware and take extra care! We already know our pets don’t live as long as we wish they would, so don’t take that time with them for granted.


There is currently a severe outbreak of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) in the Chicago area, on the brink of being an epidemic, which you may have seen in the news. The disease has caused more than a thousand cases and the death of at least 5 dogs from January through March (as reported by the Chicago Tribune). Chicago Tribune: Canine Influenza Article and Video

Canine flu is not as common as many other viruses in dogs that you are used to hearing about. So, what is it?

  • It is a virus and a contagious respiratory disease that has affected thousands of dogs in the United States. It is a relatively new virus, which is why you may not have heard much about it. Remember the outbreak in Florida racing greyhounds with a new respiratory disease in 2004? That was Canine Influenza Virus. Then in 2005, outbreaks began occurring in boarding facilities and others involving pet dogs throughout the nation. It is thought that it may have gotten started in the greyhounds due to the mutation of the equine flu virus and exposing those greyhounds in the racetrack environment.
  • It does not appear to be contagious to humans, or at least no cases have been reported of CIV in humans.
  • Because it is a virus, there is no specific treatment, other than supportive care and treatment for secondary bacterial infections (similar to treatment of the flu in humans).
  • It is one of the viral causes of infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough).
  • Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, sometimes a fever, runny nose with eventual mucopurulent discharge, tachypnea/breathing harder than normal, decreased appetite, and lethargy or depression. Some dogs may also have sub-clinical infection and never show symptoms.
  • Most dogs fight the infection between 1-3 weeks. Hospitalization is required for development of pneumonia, high fever, or other issues.
  • Dogs with CIV should be kept isolated from other dogs for 2 weeks.
  • Dogs may shed the virus even before clinical symptoms start, meaning they may have already exposed other dogs to the virus before they are acting sick.
  • Veterinarians and technicians/hospital workers should wear protective clothing, including gowns and gloves, when caring for infected dogs. Hand-washing is always one of the most important ways to prevent spread of any disease.

In general CIV is very treatable and dogs typically recover when they are diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. In immune-compromised animals, the disease is more serious as the immune system has a harder time fighting the virus and these animals are more susceptible to pneumonia and other complicating factors. There is a vaccine available. Although not a core vaccine, it should be considered for higher risk pets (boarding, going to the dog park, or traveling to areas with outbreaks or higher incidence of the disease).