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Newsletter - October 2008

The News At Home

There’s a new puppy on our street. She’s a mixed breed, about seven months old, and as sweet as sugar. Her name is Jetta and she has that silly puppy look in her eyes. You know the one. It’s the innocent gaze of a dog that is mesmerized by the world, and perplexed at the same time. Tori is challenged in a number of ways, and this includes mentally. But she is so sweet, and so well behaved (ok, so not always), that it came as no surprise that she and Jetta seem to relate to each other.

Jetta is walked by our house every day at 9 am. Tori waits at the window for her. Much to her owner’s frustration, Jetta sits on the sidewalk and waits for me to bring Tori outside for a playbow and sniff-fest. Jetta’s owner is trying to get her to be obedient, so her refusal to budge from the sidewalk must be a challenge for him. But it’s clear that Jetta’s first lessons for her owner are patience, and that the importance of stopping to say hello to a friend should never be underestimated. Dogs are such a gift, so inspirational, and so wise - even at seven months of age with that goofy (but oh so sweet) look in their eyes.

Fact of The Month: There is a “Hidden” Sources of Vitamin D

One of roles of vitamin D includes promotion of calcium absorption. As vital as this may be, vitamin D, like anything else, can be overdone. Like people, dogs can obtain some vitamin D from exposure to direct sunlight. However, other than a hairless dog, this exposure is limited to the nose and ears (obviously not the case for floppy-eared dogs). Since the amount of vitamin D from direct sunlight is relatively limited for most dogs, and since inclement weather may prevent the dog from receiving even this limited amount, we need to provide it via diet.

Animal livers provide small amounts of vitamin D, as do eggs, but usually not enough to meet requirements and maintain health. Fish liver oils (cod liver being the most common) provide whopping amounts of vitamin A and large amounts of vitamin D. Fish provides vitamin D as well, although the amount is highly variable. On the other hand, canned fish such as sardines and salmon add plenty of vitamin D to the diet, so be sure to incorporate these amounts when formulating your dogs’ diet for the long term. Hidden sources of vitamin D include poultry skin, chicken skin in particular. You’re not likely to weigh the skin itself, but consider this as a guide: 100 grams (3 ½ oz) of chicken skin provides 900 IU of vitamin D. That’s a substantial amount! Think about the number of dogs consuming chicken wings or even cooked chicken breast or thighs that include skin and you can see that many of these dogs may not require the addition of cod liver oil to the diet. Now, add in the fact that fish body oils contain vitamin D as well. Just about everyone I know adds some fish body oil to their dog’s diet, and usually, this is perfectly fine. In fact, the omega 3 fatty acid content benefits most dogs. But there is an unknown to most fish body oils. Few sellers of these oils have any idea of how much vitamin D their product contains. We test ours so we do know, and there can be small variables from one lot number to the next. When you know how much vitamin D is in your chosen oil, or when you can receive some guidance, you’re more likely to be able to formulate a better diet. If you feed canned fish, you may not need any fish oil, and if you feed plenty of chicken skin, you may not want to add canned fish to begin with. Of course, the entire diet needs to be considered. Looking at only one component is an exercise in futility. Add foods and oils as necessary to provide a healthy, balanced diet - not on a “just in case” basis.

Adult Case of the Month

Meet Tally -  a six year-old Havanese that could give lessons in owner manipulation. She’s a very smart girl, with a will of iron. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, can sway this dog to eat unless she deems it appropriate. She can go as long as three days without food, and while she’s never become ill from this, her top-dog position in the household had backfired badly. Tally likes eggs and refused to eat anything else. The problem is that eggs contain sulfur amino acids, so they are one of the best foods if the goal is to acidify urine. This dog had acid urine to begin with. The end result was removal of calcium oxalate stones in a dog that was about 15% below her best weight.

Whether or not the prescription diet the veterinarian had given Tally’s owner to try would have helped or not remains unknown because this little spitfire was on a hunger strike. Let’s face it, I could almost hear her saying - if I refused to eat steak, I’m certainly not going to consider “lowering” my standards and start eating canned food! I explained to Tally’s owner that we had to add carbohydrates if we had any hope of seeing less acid urine. We started off by offering Tally scrambled eggs for two days, because I needed her to be eager to eat and more trusting of what she was going to be fed. On day three, we added a little milk to the eggs so they were a looser consistency. Baby rice cereal was added on day four; only enough to make the scrambled eggs firmer. Seven weeks later, Tally was eating half the eggs she used to, and much more of the cereal. By the tenth week, she was accepting a smidge of sweet potato, and by the twelfth week, she ate a balanced diet, including supplements and even a little chicken and vegetables! Tally’s owner sent me a note the other day. Her dog’s urine pH is a perfect 6.5, and a little tough love has turned Tally into a better eater in general. No more fighting to get the dog to eat, no urinary problems - all’s well that ends well.


“The dog represents all that is best in man.’ -- Etienne Charlet



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