DEAR DR. FOX: Earlier this year, our golden retriever was diagnosed with ehrlichiosis. We were prescribed a pretty expensive routine of drugs and monthly vet visits, and we are not really getting any results. We cannot afford to give her all of the meds the doctor has prescribed. She is currently getting prednisone, Denamarin and Renavast.
We are supposed to be giving her more of the Denamarin and Renavast than we are, but it's already adding up to $300 a month. Are there any cheaper alternatives, or do you think we are fighting a losing battle? We have to force-feed her most days, but once and a while she will eat on her own. I do not know what to do anymore. We don't want to lose her, but things are getting financially problematic for us. -- J.H., West Fargo, N.D.
DEAR J.H.: This disease, transmitted by ticks such as the brown dog tick, can be treated when an early diagnosis is made. But treatment is a challenge when this tick-transmitted infectious organism that enters and multiplies in certain blood cells has proliferated too invasively into the dog's tissues and organs.
Fever, lameness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, enlarged spleen and lymph glands, bleeding from the nose, eye discharge and swelling of the extremities are early signs of infection, which can be confirmed by blood serum tests.
Regrettably, your dog is in the chronic stage of this disease, which could lead to blindness, kidney failure or collapse from internal bleeding. Have you had a frank discussion with the attending veterinarian about your financial concerns? Some equitable solution may be forthcoming if you are open. A less costly treatment trial with one of the tetracycline drugs may be worth consideration. Above all, your dog's comfort and quality of life need to be considered when there is no relief from the chronic, complex consequences of this disease.
PET FOOD INDUSTRY REVOLUTION/EVOLUTION
Pet Products News International reports that, according to the GfK Group (a Germany-based global market research company tracking business in 11,000 United States pet stores), sales of grain-free pet foods have jumped some 28 percent over the past year.
More than $1.4 billion was spent on this kind of pet food for dogs, and some $322 million for cats in 2012. While this is a small fraction of the annual $21 billion-a-year pet food market, it is a significant change in consumer choice and demand, driving market availability. Much of this has to do with the pet obesity epidemic and other documented health problems in dogs and cats associated with high cereal content diets. (For details, visit DrFoxVet.com.) It is an issue of special concern for cats, who are obligate carnivores and cannot process cereals and other sources of starch, unlike most dogs.
I have long advocated a reduction of soy products in dog foods and their elimination from all cat foods. Pet owners should check the ingredients of grain-free pet foods that may use high-carbohydrate substitutes, such potato and pea flour, as a binder in dry foods.
I have also been a long-time advocate of organic farming. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic pet food sales are growing at nearly three times the rate of similar organic, USDA-certified human food sales. This is noteworthy because of documented animal health and environmental concerns about genetically engineered crops and foods. Some pet food and pet treat manufacturers are even including a "No GMO" or "GMO-free" label on their products.
These market trends indicate the power of informed consumers voting with their dollars to support a more healthful agriculture and human food industry, of which the pet food industry is a subsidiary. It's time for a revolution, since the catalysts for many changes are the diet-related health problems being seen in dogs and cats fed conventional manufactured pet foods.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)