DEAR READERS: A study of 21 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Brazil who lived with a pet found the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 31% of their dogs and 40% of their cats. Pets that shared a bed with people were more likely to test positive. There was no evidence of transmission from pets to people, but experts said the findings underscore the importance of limiting contact between pets and people with COVID-19. (Full story: Medical News Today, 6/11)
This study puts us all on notice to be vigilant when anyone with pets tests positive for this virus. Avoid contact with other dogs when out on walks and keep cats indoors to prevent potential spread. Since this virus can mutate, it would be tragic if companion animals became a reservoir for future infections.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 11-year-old Lhasa apso was recently diagnosed with bladder stones, which are calcium oxalate. The vet suggested I switch him to a Royal Canin food that will prevent more stones from forming. When I looked at the ingredients, I was horrified. I really would rather keep him on the higher-quality food he's been on all these years. What do you suggest? -- M.D., Long Branch, New Jersey
DEAR M.D.: As detailed in the book that I co-authored with two other veterinarians, "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food," many prescription diets are not only costly and contain dubious ingredients but are also highly unpalatable. A good source for more palatable, veterinary-formulated special diets is the company Balance IT (balanceit.com).
Cats and dogs seem more prone to develop urinary crystals/calculi/stones when fed dry kibble. Moist canned, rehydrated freeze-dried, and thawed frozen food formulations mean less concentrated urine, less bladder inflammation, less bacterial infection and a lower likelihood of struvite or calcium oxalate crystals forming. Males suffer more when their urethras become blocked and emergency surgery is needed.
Some manufactured pet foods are acidified to help prevent struvite crystal formation, which may then lead to oxalate crystal formation. To prevent this, some veterinary nutritionists call for a diet with low protein, low oxalate and low sodium -- but high cereal content -- to make the urine more alkaline. Potassium citrate in the food twice daily can help normalize urine acidity/alkalinity.
But in my opinion, the best preventive is to ensure a high moisture content in a balanced, biologically appropriate diet and to make sure the animal is always well hydrated. Cats, especially, may not maintain optimal hydration, so adding a little chicken bouillon to their drinking water can encourage adequate water intake. Same for dogs prone to oxalate crystals.
A metabolic anomaly causing elevated calcium in the blood may play a role in oxalate crystal formation. This seems to have a genetic basis, and is seen frequently in breeds like the Lhasa apso, Yorkshire terrier, miniature and standard schnauzers, bichon frise, Shih Tzu and miniature poodle.
BUGS: THE NEXT BIG INGREDIENT IN PET AND HUMAN FOODS
DEAR READERS: Insects are getting attention as an environmentally friendly source of protein. Demand for pet food and animal feed could reach half a million metric tons by the end of the decade -- up from about 10,000 metric tons today, according to a RaboResearch report. Mars Petcare and Nestle have launched insect-based brands in Europe, although in the U.S., insect food accounts for less than 2% of all pet food sales. (Full story: CNBC, 6/12)
Dried yellow mealworm can be sold across the 27-nation European Union as a protein boost for pasta and baked goods, and several other insect foods are pending food safety evaluation for human consumption by the EU, according to Bloomberg News reporter Aoife White ("How to eat fried worms," 5/4).
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DEAR DR. FOX: I read a recent column of yours about a cat with known liver issues that died after getting its teeth cleaned and vaccines updated.
My 14-year-old dog was diagnosed with liver failure, and the vet gave him his vaccinations in October. He died in April. Did this contribute to his death? -- C.R., Tulsa, Oklahoma
DEAR C.R.: Considering the many months between your dog being given vaccinations and his death, it is difficult to determine to what degree the vaccinations may have contributed to your dog's demise. My question is what vaccinations were given, other than a mandatory anti-rabies shot, to such an old dog who probably did not need any other re-vaccinations.
No vaccination is risk-free, and too many dogs and cats are given "booster" shots that are not needed. If in doubt, a blood titer test can be done to see if their protection is waning or not. This is worth the cost.
BEST DOG IN SHOW?
Wasabi the Pekingese won Best in Show at the 145-year-old, manufactured-pet-food-industry-sponsored Westminster Kennel Club competition.
Many people applauded seeing this little dog being led around the ring at a fast pace. How many saw how difficult it was for this poor animal to walk and breathe properly? The deformed legs were covered by long hair dragging on the ground. The pushed-in face means a restricted airway; dental problems could result from the deformed jaw; and the bulging eyes could indicate susceptibility to corneal ulcers and possible blindness.
Why do we continue to breed creatures with such extreme genetic anomalies, which will mean a lifetime trapped in a physically compromised body? What does this practice say about us?