Several varieties of Diamond Naturals dog food have been recalled since April. Of the 14 people who have been sickened, at least five have been hospitalized with salmonella infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a nine-state outbreak linked to Diamond's pet food. The dog food was produced at a single manufacturing plant in South Carolina. In Food Safety News, reporter Mary Rosthschild writes, "How many dogs may have been sickened was not mentioned in the CDC report. In some recall notices, Diamond Pet Foods has claimed that no dog illnesses have been reported. Those recall alerts from the company did not reveal that human cases of infection were being investigated."
Now, as a precautionary measure, Diamond has expanded the recall. Pet owners with questions about recalled dog and cat food may contact Diamond Pet Foods at 800-442-0402 or visit www.diamondpetrecall.com.
In my opinion, while the manufactured pet food industry surveillance system may have helped prevent a major food-borne disease epidemic in this instance, it is the inhumane ways in which factory-farmed animals are raised, handled and processed that need to be addressed and changed, as I document in my book, "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health." Harmful bacteria thrive under such stressed animal conditions.
DEAR DR. FOX: In May 2009 we adopted an abandoned cat that our friends found in a box giving birth. A home was found for the kittens, and we took mama cat. We immediately took her to the vet, who spayed her, gave her shots and performed a complete physical exam. The vet estimated the cat was about 10 months old. She weighed 6.5 pounds, and her tests indicated she was very healthy.
We named her Jackie Paper and took her back to the vet for a checkup in June 2010. She presented as a healthy cat, except that her neutrophil level had dropped from 7,000 to 1,350 (the normal range is 2,500 to 8,000). The vet suggested we have her retested. We did so one month later, and her level dropped even more, to 957. At that point, the vet tested the cat for feline leukemia and the corona virus -- the results were negative for both. A few weeks later, new tests indicated her neutrophil levels had increased to 1,408. The vet thought she might have had some temporary condition that she was getting over.
Jackie's neutrophil levels go up and down for no reason we can explain. And, with one exception (February 2011), her levels remain below normal. The vet consulted with other vets, set up a blog and researched the possible causes, but neither she nor any other vet has come up with a plausible cause for Jackie's condition. We had a bit of hope early in the summer of 2011 when one consulting vet suggested a probable bacterial infection and prescribed Orbax. The cat loved the medicine, but, unfortunately, her neutrophil level dropped from 1,940 to 1,540 during the four months she was taking the medication.
We're at a loss as to what to do. The vet and her consulting vets suggest a bone marrow biopsy, but we hate to put the cat through that if, in the end, there's nothing we can do to help her. Can you suggest any probable causes for her condition or any medications or food that would boost her neutrophil level? -- B.K.K., Alexandria, Va.
DEAR B.K.K.: As you have no doubt learned, neutrophils are white blood cells produced by the bone marrow and play a vital role as part of the immune system defense mechanism to fight infection and inflammation.
Feline viral infections can result in neutropenia (low white blood cell counts). It is my opinion that your Jackie Paper may have a viral or bacterial infection that is not showing up in blood tests. Alternatively, she could have a congenital bone marrow defect or have been treated for ringworm prior to you adopting her with a drug such as griseofulvin that damaged her bone marrow neutrophil production.
Since the antibiotic treatment did not help improve her neutrophil count, we can probably rule out a chronic bacterial infection. I would give her supplements to help boost her immune system functions such as coenzyme Q10, Resveratrol, fish oil and a good multivitamin and multimineral supplement such as Platinum Performance Plus. Short-term treatment with recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) may be beneficial. I would question doing a bone marrow biopsy. Ask what treatments might be subsequently prescribed, depending on what is diagnosed.
Cats do not respond well to invasive procedures. If your cat were mine, I would wait and see, especially since she is showing no other signs of illness. A prior infection from which she recovered could have brought on her neutrophil anomaly, and, provided her health is maintained with good nutrition and a stress-free environment, she may live happily for many years.
Some normal cats may have low neutrophil counts (between 1,800 and 2,500). As a precaution, I would avoid giving your cat any further vaccinations or anti-flea drugs.
DEAR DR. FOX: We have a male Westie who turned 10 in July. We feed him Science Diet and Bil-Jac dry food. We also mix in 1/4 of the tin of Cesar's wet food.
Our dog has scabs all over his underside. This is the third bout in 10 years. Our vet told us to bathe him twice a week with KetoChlor medicated shampoo and scratch the scabs off. I have been doing that, and I try to remove all the scabs each time, but they just seem to be coming back. He has started licking his front paws to the point where he has licked the hair off.
Should I change his dog food and give him some sort of medication? Would you please tell us what we could do to get rid of the scabs and stop the licking? -- S.S., Benbrook, Texas
DEAR S.S.: Your dog may have a food allergy or nutritional deficiency, either of which can result in secondary bacterial or fungal infection of the skin.
I would gradually transition, over five to seven days, onto a corn- and wheat-free diet. Give him a few drops of fish oil in his food, working up to a teaspoon daily. His condition may show gradual improvement within a few months. If not, then additional supplements (such as zinc, selenium and vitamin B-complex) may prove beneficial. Try a weekly bathing with human Selsun Blue medicated shampoo for one to two months.
Considering his age, there could be other health issues that need to be addressed, notably poor thyroid activity.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
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