Cleaning Up America’s Dirtiest Dog

October 29, 2013
Darcy, 2012 Winner of Wahl's Dirty Dog Contest

Darcy, 2012 Winner of Wahl’s Dirty Dog Contest. Photo courtesy of Wahl.

Last week I got a telephone call from someone asking a novel question: “Is my own dry shampoo safe for my pet?”

My initial reaction was that it sounded ok, but I knew I had to investigate the list of ingredients in dry shampoos. I found there are a wide variety of dry shampoos – some powder based and some aerosol. I would be willing to bet all cats and most dogs would not be happy about being “shampooed” with the aerosol variety and I made a mental note to find some powdered dry shampoos to check on ingredients.

Top ranked dry shampoos for people
Next, I looked at a Vogue ranking of dry shampoos and every one was in a spray bottle! It was impossible to find the ingredients and one product actually said the ingredients were subject change at any time! As a pet owner, that didn’t give me much confidence regarding dry shampoo safety for my pet. Another dry shampoo contained a list of chemicals worthy of the answers on a multiple choice AP chemistry test. Thinking rationally, human dry shampoos are not made to be ingested, and I guarantee you if you put them on your pet they will be! In the end, I cannot recommend human dry shampoos for pets.

Emergency pet shampooing
If you need a clean pet in an emergency situation – your dog smells and you have dinner guests on the way or the cat looks greasy and you have a big date in one hour – I suggest opening the kitchen cabinet. Dry shampoos work by absorbing the oils from your hair. A sprinkle or two of corn starch on your dog, followed by vigorous brushing, may do the trick. No corn starch? Open the bathroom cabinet and try some baby powder on your cat. Keep both cornstarch and baby powder out of your pet’s eyes and nose.

For the do-it-yourselfers, here is a link to a homemade dry shampoo made with all safe ingredients. I find lavender oil included in this recipe to be very calming for dogs who are anxious in the exam room.

Stock your pet cabinet
The easiest solution to getting your pet clean and fresh without a tub bath is to keep a pet-safe dry or waterless shampoo on hand. The Wahl product line is one I use in the clinic to spot clean my messier patients – both dogs and cats.

A quick internet search located many other commercially available dry shampoos made specifically for pets.

Dirty dog search
Got a photo of your dirty dog? Wahl and Petfinder Foundation are sponsoring a contest to find American’s dirtiest dog. Enter your dirty dog photo and you could win a year’s supply of Wahl pet grooming products, a $100 gift card, plus $5,000 and grooming supplies awarded to the animal shelter or rescue group of your choice. Now you and your dirty dog can help America’s shelter pets become clean, happy and more adoptable. Photos must be entered by October 31st.

Wahl photo contest


Prebiotic or Probiotic: Good for What Ails You and Your Pet?

June 15, 2012

Babs is available for adoption in CT (details below)

The yogurt aisle in the grocery store has become intimidating. Although I have my favorites, most of the little cartons now seem to be claiming health benefits beyond providing nutrition. Labels and advertising campaigns extol the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics in our diets. But what are they and how do they help aid in our health? And, could these aids be beneficial to our pets?

To start, pre- and probiotics are classified as functional foods since the food has a function other than a nutritional one.

Prebiotics are food for beneficial bacteria and these compounds are not digested, they are fermented and enhance growth of good bacteria. Prebiotics consist of fiber, which serves as nutrition for the millions of bacteria residents in our (and our pet’s) intestinal tract, promoting the growth of good bacteria, which in turn promotes intestinal health. Reports indicate prebiotics improve colitis symptoms, strengthen the immune system, and prevent colon cancer. Common foods such as whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, and artichokes are considered prebiotics. Food may also have a prebiotic fiber as an additive.

Probiotics are the good bacteria themselves and they may occur naturally in some foods or be used to fortify others. Probiotic yogurts contain live cultures of good bacteria designed to repopulate the intestinal flora to generally promote digestive health or to be used after a disease or medication has disrupted the normal balance of intestinal bacteria. For example, Bifidobacterium lactis is a component of a very popular yogurt promoted to improve digestive health. Lactobacillus is another common probiotic bacteria.

Prebiotic pets

You may not know it, but your pet may already be receiving prebiotics in your pet’s food as treatment of gastrointestinal upset. At least two pet food companies, Iams and Purina, add prebiotics to both dog and cat foods. Iams uses fructooligosaccharides derived from beet pulp in some of its tummy-friendly foods and Purina adds aleurone derived from wheat.

Probiotic pets

In addition to recommending my patients’ owners visit the yogurt aisle to help combat tummy upset from antibiotic administration, I can also prescribe probiotics specifically designed for pets. One such product contains two probiotic bacteria: Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus in a tasty powdered form. The other contains a different organism, Bifidobacterium animalis in a chewable tablet. Both have helped to resolve diarrhea in patients of mine.

Veterinary use of probiotics is not limited to just dogs and cats. The intestinal bacteria of Guinea pigs and rabbits are uniquely sensitive to antibiotics. Following antibiotic treatment, overgrowth of a bad bacteria known as Clostridium occurs. The AMC’s exotic pet specialists commonly prescribe a probiotic containing yeast from tropical fruits, Saccharomyces boulardii, to combat this problem.

If you have a pet with recurrent stomach problems, ask your veterinarian about pre- and probiotics.

Babs is available for adoption through Petfinder.


Failing Feline Kidneys: No Need to Think the Worst

June 12, 2012

This is the second in a series of blogs about our fabulous felines written for Adopt-A-Cat Month.

Maggie is available for adoption (more info below)

An annual visit to your cat’s veterinarian will result in blood tests being submitted to a veterinary laboratory to test for a variety of diseases such as hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney disease. To the typical cat owner, a diagnosis of kidney disease sounds ominous, but it’s not always as bad as it sounds. Take for example my nephew cat BeeDee. He had a rough start in life, abandoned as a kitten at The Animal Medical Center following a head trauma incident. My sister adopted him and he lived a good life, twenty-one years to be exact, despite having been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at age eighteen.

Kidney disease: The diagnosis

Estimates suggest one to three percent of cats will develop kidney disease during their lifetime and one in twelve geriatric cats has kidney disease. The diagnosis of chronic kidney disease in a cat like BeeDee is based on elevations in two blood tests: blood urea nitrogen, commonly abbreviated BUN, and creatinine plus evaluation of urine-specific gravity. In chronic kidney disease, the urine-specific gravity is neither concentrated nor dilute; it falls in a middle range known as isothenuric because the impaired kidneys no longer have the ability to concentrate or dilute the urine. Creatinine and BUN can be elevated in disorders other than chronic kidney disease such as a kidney infection or dehydration. Taking a urine sample from your cat to his annual examination will win you a gold star from your veterinarian and allow the urine to be tested to determine if chronic kidney disease is likely. For suggestions on how to collect feline urine, click here.

Severity scoring

The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) developed guidelines to grade the severity of chronic kidney disease in cats and dogs. The IRIS guidelines rank kidney disease from stage I to stage IV as the creatinine increases. Since as many as twenty percent of cats with chronic kidney disease have hypertension, your cat’s veterinarian will recommend blood pressure monitoring. Blood pressure, urine protein level, and organ damage from hypertension all play a role in IRIS staging. As your cat’s stage increases, so does the need for treatment.

A low score wins!

A study of 211 cats with chronic kidney disease, performed at The AMC, showed IRIS stage based only on creatinine levels in the blood correlated with the cat’s longevity. Cats diagnosed with Stage IIb had a creatinine >2.3 mg/dl, stage III greater than 2.8 mg/dl and stage IV greater than 5 mg/dl. Those cats with IRIS stage II kidney disease survived on average over 1000 days, stage III cats nearly 800 days and stage IV cats only about 100 days.

If your cat’s diagnosis is low IRIS stage chronic kidney disease, try not to worry. Treatment can help keep your cat around for years to come. I can’t guarantee your cat will do as well as my nephew cat and live to the ripe old age of 21 – but you never know!

Maggie is available for adoption in NYC through Petfinder.


Of Man and Dog: The Fight Against Cancer

June 7, 2012

Humphrey is available for adoption through Petfinder (see details below)

Dogs, surprisingly, retain physiological and genetic similarity to humans. Dogs and humans also share a common environment and suffer from the same diseases, such as cancer. In many cases, studying dog cancer can lead to advances in the treatment of human cancer.

Strike it rich with Golden Retrievers

Take for example the Golden Retriever, with a lifetime risk of lymphoma in the United States of 1:8. Veterinary researchers collaborated and struck “research gold” when they found a deletion in a canine chromosome in a high percentage of Golden Retrievers with B cell lymphoma. The same deletion was found less often in other breeds with lymphoma.

Because genetic abnormalities in human cancers are difficult to pinpoint, studies such as this one help to identify genetic abnormalities to target in future human studies of lymphoma. A newer study employed a virtual rearrangement of chromosomes from Golden Retrievers and other breeds to match the distribution of genes on human chromosomes and identified human chromosomes 8 and 21 as areas for further study to advance knowledge and treatment of human lymphoma.

Research of this caliber requires multiple investigators, each contributing to the work from their own area of expertise. To help decipher this information, I spoke with my friend and one of the investigators, Dr. Jamie Modiano.

He says, “If, at the molecular level, you look at dog lymphoma pretending it is human lymphoma, the genetics are simpler and it becomes easier to find pertinent abnormalities. The molecular abnormalities stand out in the dog because of the reduced complexity of the genome in inbred, purebred dogs as compared to the complex human genome.”

Dogs guide researchers on the path to success

Osteosarcoma, the most common bone tumor in both humans and dogs, is a devastating disease. Only 80% of children with osteosarcoma live more than five years and for dogs the number is lower: only 20% of dogs survive more than two years. The similarities of the disease between humans and dogs makes osteosarcoma an important disease to study. Already studies in dogs have contributed to advances in limb-sparing surgeries and improved chemotherapy protocols in children and dogs. As with lymphoma, veterinary researchers collaborate to study dogs with osteosarcoma because dogs’ more narrow genetic diversity when compared to humans makes identification of genetic abnormalities a bit simpler. In one study, genes associated with cell proliferation, drug resistance, and metastasis were found to be turned on at a higher rate in dogs succumbing to osteosarcoma early, compared to dogs enjoying a longer cancer free life.

Genetic mutations driving tumor proliferation are often similar in human and canine cancers. Another collaborative veterinary research group investigated the similarities between human and canine genes in osteosarcoma.

First, dogs of breeds like Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers that are at high risk for osteosarcoma were studied. Tumor samples were analyzed to identify what genes were turned on in the tumors. This analysis divided the dogs into two groups and, based on the turned on genes, found a marked difference in outcome between the two groups. When the same genes in children with osteosarcoma were analyzed, again two groups with marked differences in outcome were identified. Now researchers can focus on turning off the genes and developing drugs to block the genes’ effects.

For more information about how purebred dog genetics are helping cure disease, read my previous blog, “Fighting Breed Related Diseases.”

Click here for more information about Humphrey!


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