Saturday, July 21, 2018

Top Veterinary Articles: Cyanobacteria Poisoning, Diet-Related Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), and more ...

Can Swimming in a Pond or Lake Kill Your Dog?

Dr. Marty Becker

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for dogs, particularly on hot days. It's fun, burns energy, helps prevent heat stroke, and is easy on the joints. Like everything in life, it comes with some risks. Dr. Marty is not talking about drowning or water intoxication, though.

One of the risks of swimming and playing in a pond or lake has always scared me a lot--blue-green algae. Just a few mouthfuls of algae-contaminated water can result in fatal poisoning.

Just last week our vet hospital posted a warning of a contaminated lake in our area. Scary, dangerous stuff. If you see a lake or pond that looks like blue or green paint spilled on the surface, keep your dog away from it.

Related articles:
Summer Perils: Blue-Green Algae

Further reading:
Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria)

Top Veterinary Articles: Cyanobacteria Poisoning, Diet-Related Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), and more ...

Increase in DCM in Dogs May Be Linked to Diet

Veterinary Practice News

One of the news that has swept the internet and are scaring many dog parents is the increased incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs and the potential connection to their diet. I have seen articles citing novelty dog food formulas right along raw or home-cooked diets. In other words, it came across as blaming everything other than mainstream dog food products.

The first headlines I've seen, if I remember correctly, stated that grain-free diets are suspect in causing dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. Namely, the potential for taurine deficiency.

Surely it's not the grains dogs cannot live without?

Taurine deficiency had been discovered as the culprit behind this problem in cats. Taurine is amino acid - one of the building blocks of proteins. Some amino acids are essential, meaning the body cannot make them and have to come from diet. For cats, taurine is an essential amino acid. Dogs can make their own. So what gives? And how does one amino acid becomes essential while another does not?

When I was thinking about the cat situation, here is my theory. An ancestral diet for cats would have been mice and other small rodents, right? Turns out that mice contain generous amounts of taurine. A cat would only need to eat seven mice a day to get its daily taurine requirement.

If a nutrient were this abundant in the natural diet, why would the body bother trying to make it?

I believe that every species evolved to survive on what food they had naturally available. Their bodies would make the nutrients deficient in such food. Change the food source dramatically, and you're likely to throw the body off the rails.

To me, if what the dog eats is relatively close to what they evolved eating, their bodies should not have any problems unless the food source itself became deficient in some of its nutrients for some external reasons such as soil depletion.

Would merely removing grains from dogs' diet throw their bodies off so badly? I don't believe so. The root of the problem ought to be elsewhere.

The newer articles, as well as the FDA statement, seem to be painting a different picture.

"Diets in cases reported to the FDA frequently list potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, other “pulses” (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, indicating that they are main ingredients. " ~FDA Statement

That is starting to make more sense as far as I am concerned. I have nothing against legumes, but dogs most definitely did not evolve on this kind of diet--not historically and not in the recent past. I can accept that either the nutritional content or bioavailability could be the culprit. They also might contain compounds that interfere with taurine synthesis. Probably one or more of those things.

Further investigation is underway. I don't see that it is even conclusive that taurine deficiency is to blame--coincidence (two things happening at the same time) doesn't automatically equal consequence. I could, however, subscribe to the potential that dogs are not equipped to survive on the above ingredients. I believe that dogs need animal-source protein. And that's what I feed. I don't mind the idea of throwing the odd legume into the mix but having it virtually or practically the main ingredient(s), regardless of what wonderful nutritional profiles they might have on paper, does not strike me like a bright idea.

One of the animal-source ingredients high in taurine is--wait for it--heart. "The organ has what the organ needs." Pretty logical. It doesn't say anything about legumes, though.

Because I am a paranoid person, I might include more heart or other taurine-rich foods to Cookie's diet just to play it safe. And we'll all be waiting to see what the further inquiry reveals.

Source article:
Increase in DCM in Dogs May be Linked to Diet

Dogs Fed Grain-Free Kibble May Be at Risk for Heart Disease

Dr. Karen Becker/Mercola Healthy Pets

Here are Dr. Karen Becker's two cents on the above subject. Her recommendation is, until more information is available, to supplement all dogs with foods high in taurine, regardless of their current diet. Also for the sake of safety, I'd opt for taurine-rich foods over taurine supplements. Foods highest in taurine include shellfish, particularly scallops, mussels, and clams. Animal meat, particularly the heart and liver, dark turkey and chicken meat.

Dr. Becker's article is cautious but level-headed take on the situation.

Electrical Cord Injury in Dogs & Cats – Don’t Chew on That!

Dr. Christopher Byers/CriticalCareDVM

I am sure we all understand that dog's teeth, and electrical cords are not a good match. Dogs, however, particularly puppies, have no idea what kind of dangerous force is hiding in that nice, chewy string they found laying around on the floor. You cannot explain this to a dog, and you don't want them to learn the hard way or even die. The best way to protect your dog or puppy from an electrical cord injury is to keep those two apart.

Fortunately, such injuries are not very common but accidents can happen, and it can be life-threatening. To learn about electrical cord injuries in amazing detail, read Dr. Byers' article.

Dr. Sue's Top 5 Medications to Prevent Chemo Side Effects

Dr. Sue Ettinger


  1. I've always said the field of pet nutrition is minefield, and once again I'm proved right!! There was a whole big push for grain free, all the benefits, dogs don't need grains, they're just fillers blah blah blah. My dog eats grain free but that's because when we adopted him he used to scratch a lot, and now with a grain free diet he doesn't. He does have a heart murmur though...

    1. I don't believe that the absence of grains is the true problem. The true problem seems to be the ingredients used to replace them comprising too much of the overall content. The advantage of grains is that it had been tested that dogs can survive on those. This is not known for high percentage of legumes and things.

      Neither of those ingredients are not what I'd consider species-appropriate ingredients. I doubt that diets high in animal-source protein will turn out being a problem.