On Jan. 31, Hill's Pet Nutrition announced a voluntary recall of 25 different types of canned dog food because of a risk of elevated levels of vitamin D. According to a press release from the Food and Drug Administration, vitamin D is essential for good canine health, but "ingestion of elevated levels can lead to potential health issues depending on the level of vitamin D and the length of exposure, and dogs may exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss. Vitamin D, when consumed at very high levels, can lead to serious health issues in dogs including renal dysfunction."
Obviously, if your dog has consumed any of these foods and is showing signs of illness, you should take the animal to a veterinarian immediately. "In most cases," the FDA notes, "complete recovery is expected after discontinuation of feeding."
DEAR DR. FOX: I have read that some dog foods, which have no grains, can cause heart disease. I thought grain is good for dogs. Can you please explain? -- R.E., Washington, D.C.
DEAR R.E.: When pet food manufacturers started putting more alternative, non-grain sources of carbohydrates from various plant sources -- such as potatoes, tapioca, pea flour and other beans/pulses -- into their products, the incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs began to increase. Some breeds may be more susceptible than others.
This heart disease is associated with taurine deficiency (especially in cats that cannot manufacture taurine from other amino acids in their diets as dogs can).
There could be a taurine deficiency because the pet food is too low in animal protein/amino acids to begin with, or because taurine and other nutrients in the food are destroyed by the heat from cooking and from the prolonged storage of frozen meats. And some pet food ingredients, such as beet pulp and rice bran, may interfere with the digestion and absorption of taurine and other nutrients. Also, a high carbohydrate diet that results in the proliferation of certain bacteria at the expense of others may play a role in the absorption of taurine and other nutrients.
Dogs should ideally receive some fresh meats in their diets. Try giving your dog a daily sardine or two, or even chicken or turkey hearts. You can also consider giving your dog daily doses of taurine supplement. For a 30-pound dog, give 500 mg taurine twice daily.
DEAR DR. FOX: I would like to know if a dog could have a condition resembling autism. I have an 8-year-old Yorkie/Maltese mix, and she seems to exhibit the signs. She is very intelligent and easily trained. She has an uncanny sense as to what we are going to do (go for a ride, a walk, etc.). It's almost as if she can read our minds.
She does not like crowds and loud noises. She is not aggressive, but dogs and people other than my husband and me upset her. She likes everything to be the same (bed, food dish, toys, etc.) and done on schedule. She will sit by the door or in the kitchen as if letting us know what time it is. She is not comfortable when one of us is not home and will stay by the door or window until that person comes home.
I have tried to remedy this situation: extra socialization, puppy school, walks, trips to the pet store -- but nothing seems to work. Also, in these situations, she becomes extremely fearful. It's like she is in a panic.
This behavior has been going on for years. It seems to have gotten worse after our two other dogs passed last year.
She also has had some digestive issues that may be related to her hyper-nervous demeanor. I had all areas checked out -- bloodwork, etc. -- and everything was normal. Any insight you could supply would be much appreciated. -- H.H., Kansas City, Missouri
DEAR H.H.: I am not aware of any dog being diagnosed with a neuro-behavioral disorder resembling autism. From what you describe in your letter, you have a physically normal dog with an anxiety/panic disorder. She is shy, sensitive, intelligent and probably felt more secure with the other two dogs who were with her all her life.
Treat her with sympathetic understanding and avoid putting her in unfamiliar situations that would be stressful or leaving her all alone for any extended time.
You are correct that her digestive issues could be stress-related. Discuss with your veterinarian trying her on a low dose of CBD oil (cannabidiol derived from hemp). Also, one or two drops of essential oil of lavender on a bandanna around her neck in the morning and 1 to 3 mg melatonin at bedtime may help, along with a daily full-body massage and lots of physical activity outdoors.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.net.)