DEAR DR. FOX: Could you please suggest the best raw bone for a large (70 pounds-plus), aggressive mixed-breed dog? If raw bones are not recommended, could you please offer an alternative?
I am so dismayed and confused by the myriad of products on the market that have real potential for harm. I faithfully take our pets to the vet, keep them current on rabies shots, etc., but the amount of vague and misleading information out there is daunting. I just want to be sure that I am giving my animals something they enjoy that will not harm them. -- J.R.M., Cumberland, Maryland
DEAR J.R.M.: You are correct: There is a plethora of doggy chews on the market, many of which make false claims of their benefits, and many that pose potential risks from splintering. A splintered chew can perforate the dog's throat or guts, or break off and cause an intestinal blockage. Hard chews like deer antler pieces and cooked beef bones can crack dogs' teeth, and many dogs have been poisoned by imported dog chews/jerky treats, which I suspect were treated with ionizing radiation to kill bacteria during production.
Dogs engage in chewing and gnawing as a pleasurable activity that may help digestive processes after a meal, and can also alleviate boredom and anxiety. Since dogs often chew more on one side of their mouth than the other, effective "dental cleaning" by chews is not assured.
In my opinion, relatively safe chews include the rolls (without knotted ends) of U.S.-manufactured, chemical-free beef rawhide, and also raw beef shank bones at least 4 or 5 inches long. Short pieces can get caught around a dog's canine teeth, and cooked bones splinter more easily. An alternative plant-based product is available from Earth Animal's non-hide dog chews.
Avoid the smoked, dehydrated parts of pigs (feet, snouts and ears) and even the bulls' penises sold in many pet stores. These carry a documented risk of salmonella and other bacterial contamination.
Limit chewing to five or 10 minutes after meals to avoid tooth damage when dogs get carried away. Dog owners should not rely on chews of any kind to alleviate boredom and separation anxiety when left alone. One exception is an all-rubber Kong, which can be stuffed with peanut butter (best not on the carpet!), and various dog puzzles that dogs learn to manipulate to release the treats inside.
Hope this helps. As for other dog treats, check out the Good Dog Cookie recipe posted on my website (drfoxonehealth.com).
DISEASE IN WILD RABBITS TRANSMISSIBLE TO HUMANS
Tularemia was found in rabbit carcasses on private property in Elkhart County, Indiana, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. (Full story: The Goshen News, May 4.) A male New England cottontail rabbit captured on Patience Island, Rhode Island, for a species restoration program was found to have tularemia after it suddenly died. (Full story: The Newport Daily News, March 16.)
Tularemia can sicken people and pets. The bacterium that causes it is transmitted through ticks, deer flies, skin contact with an infected animal, or exposure to contaminated soil, water, dust or aerosols. Because of its high transmissibility, this organism -- which causes bacterial septicemia, pneumonia and other health problems in humans -- is listed as a category A bioterrorism weapon.
Rabbit trappers and hunters should take note, and also keep their dogs away from areas where this disease has been reported. Similarly, since cats will hunt rabbits, cat owners are advised to not let their cats roam outdoors and kill wildlife.
According to a 2014 report by Dr. Marilynn A. Larson and associates (published in Emerging Infectious Diseases), "A vaccine is needed to reduce feline-associated tularemia, and cat owners should protect against bites/scratches and limit their pet's outdoor access."
PET FOOD RECALL
Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. is voluntarily recalling its L.I.D. Green Pea and Chicken Dry Cat Formula due to possible contamination with salmonella. More details at truthaboutpetfood.com.
(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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)