Food Allergies in Pets

Food Allergies in Pets

Have you noticed your pet constantly itching its skin or ears, developing red patches on its skin or suffering from recurring skin or ear infections? If yes, your dog or cat might be suffering from food allergies. Food allergies in pets are estimated to account for approximately 10% of all pet allergy cases.

Common Symptoms

Food allergy symptoms in pets commonly include: irritation of the skin, face and paws; irritation of the anal area in dogs and the head and neck of cats; and recurring skin and ear infections. Food allergies are an immune-mediated, adverse reaction to certain foods in a pet’s diet.Ear Infections - Food Allergies

Food allergies and food intolerances are often confused, but they are not the same thing. Food allergies involve an immune overreaction to a food ingredient while food intolerances involve an inability to digest a certain proteins or substances. The symptoms of each also differ. Food allergies often affect the skin of dogs and cats while food intolerances can cause symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea (and typically do not include an allergic skin response).

Other Allergies

Food allergies are notoriously hard to diagnose, and before you conclude your pet has a food allergy you should consider whether your pet’s itching might also be caused by parasites (such as fleas, mites or lice), superficial bacterial or yeast infections, environmental allergies or a combination of the foregoing. Common environmental allergens include pollen, molds, dust mites, cigarette smoke, shampoos, detergents, perfumes and flea-control products.

Common Food Allergens

In dogs, the most common food allergens are beef, chicken, dairy, corn, soy and wheat. Cats will commonly have sensitivities to fish, beef, dairy, corn, soy and wheat gluten. Pets can also have reactions to food dyes, preservatives and additives that are commonly found in pet foods.

Cause of Food Allergies

All dogs and cats can develop food allergies. Food allergies in pets often develop over time with repeated exposure to allergenic proteins in their diets. Some food allergies in dogs are genetic and certain breeds appear to be more likely to develop food allergies, including terriers, setters, retrievers and flat-faced breeds like bulldogs and pugs.

Diagnosing Food Allergies

Diagnosing food allergies can be tricky. If you suspect your pet has a food allergy, it is best to work with you veterinarian to identify the food allergen. Your vet might recommend an elimination diet that will help you pinpoint the cause of the allergic reaction. When on the elimination diet, you will need to be careful to ensure that none of the foods, treats, chews or medicines that you give your pet contain the suspected food allergen. If you suspect your pet is suffering from food allergies, we recommend that you consult with a qualified veterinarian.

Our Allergenic Treats

Boulder Dog Food Company, LLC makes a variety of treats that are perfect for dogs and cats with food allergies. Our bison line of dog and cat treats, bones and chews is especially suited for dogs and cats suffering from food allergies. Bison is generally thought to be less allergenic than most types of meat. This is partially due to the fact that most dogs and cats have not been overexposed to it in their regular diet. Boulder Dog Food Company, LLC specializes in making single-ingredient pet treats that don’t contain grains or fillers, harmful chemicals, mold inhibitors and other ingredients that are toxic to pets and might be the cause of other allergic reactions.   Read more about our allergenic treats on our website at www.boulderdogfoodcompany.com.

Sources:
(1) ASPCA, “Allergies” available at https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/allergies
(2) ASPCA, “Allergies” available at https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/allergies
(3) Banfield Pet Hospital, “Understanding Food Allergies in Your Pets” available at http://www.banfield.com/pet-health-resources/preventive-care/nutrition/understanding-food-allergies-in-your-pets
(4) Banfield Pet Hospital, “Atopy or Food Related Allergic Skin Disease” available at http://www.banfield.com/pet-health-resources/pet-health-concerns/allergies/atopy
(5) Drs. Tom & Tara Suplizio, “Environmental Allergies vs. Food Allergies” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, November 11, 2012
(6) E. Pask and L. Scott, “Food Allergies 101” at http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/food-allergies-101/15131

Introducing New Salmon Treat for Dogs!

SalmonFilet

Boulder Dog Food Company, LLC is delighted to announce a new gourmet, all-meat treat for dogs: Salmon Filet! Our Salmon Filet is made of 100% pure salmon — no grains, fillers or oils are added. Our salmon are wild-caught in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and cooked in small batches in our bakery in Boulder, Colorado. We are proud to offer this USA sourced and USA made treat!

Our Salmon Filets can be broken into smaller pieces and used as a training treat. This treat is a perfect winter addition to your dog’s diet since it is high in protein and omega fatty acids which help to support a healthy heart, skin and coat. Salmon Filets are now available to order on our website!

Cold Weather Tips for Pets

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Winter has definitely arrived in Boulder, Colorado! We wanted to share some tips for ensuring your furry friends stay healthy and happy this winter.

  1. Make some noise before you start the car! Outdoor cats often sleep under the hood of cars (or rest there in order to stay warm). Before starting your car, check under the engine for, or bang loudly on the hood of the car to scare away, any cats or other animals that might have sought refuge there to stay warm.
  2. Feline warmth. During the cold winter months it is best to keep your feline friends inside. If left outside in cold weather, cats can freeze, become lost, injured or killed. By keeping cats inside, you will also reduce their likelihood of exposure to infectious diseases from other animals.
  3. Outdoor canine sleeping quarters. If your dog sleeps outside, make sure his sleeping space is elevated off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and has a warm bed and blanket. The bed can be lined with straw which serves as insulation. Ideally your dog should be able to stand up and turn around in his dog house, but the house shouldn’t be larger as your dog’s body won’t be able to heat the space. Bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly.
  4. Hypothermia & Frostbite. Pets shouldn’t be left for long periods of time in below-freezing conditions. Pets that are left outside too long can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. Ears, paws and tails are particularly susceptible to injury. If your pet is left outside and is whining, shivering, anxious, weak or slows down and stops moving, get your pet inside to warm up as he or she could be exhibiting signs of hypothermia. If you suspect that your pet has suffered from frostbite or hypothermia, seek the advice and care of a veterinarian.
  5. Snowstorm hazard. It is best to keep your dog on a leash at all times during snowstorms or in icy conditions as dogs can lose their scent and become lost. Before venturing into the snow, make sure your pet has an up-to-date collar. Microchips can also be used to identify pets, and don’t forget to keep the registration current. Be extra careful when walking elderly or arthritic pets on snow or ice as they can have difficulty.
  6. Winter wipe-down. After walking your dog outside in sleet, snow or ice, thoroughly wipe off his paws, feet, legs and underbelly. Pets can pick up chemicals during their walks that can harm their paws (like salt used to melt snow), mouths (upon licking salty or dirty paws) or that can be toxic (such as antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals). Booties can help protect against injury to your pet’s paws from salt.
  7. Antifreeze. Care should be taken to avoid any spilled antifreeze when walking your pet, as antifreeze is a lethal poison to dogs and cats. Make sure to wipe up any spilled antifreeze from vehicles and in your garage if pets can access the area.
  8. Sweaters & Grooming. Sweaters and coats are a good idea when taking your dog out into the cold weather. Dogs lose most of their body heat through their paw pads, ears and as a result of respiration. If you bathe your dog before going on a walk in the cold, make sure your dog is completely dry before going into the cold weather as dogs, like humans, can catch colds. During the cold winter months it is a good idea to avoid shaving your dog down to the skin as a longer coat will provide extra protection from the cold.
  9. Fresh water supply. Make sure your pets have ample water, and routinely check to confirm that your pet’s outdoor water supply isn’t frozen. Heated bowls of water are a good choice in the winter. Plastic bowls are preferable to metal bowls in the winter months since metal isn’t insulated and can freeze.

Sources:

Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

Boulder Dog Food Company, LLC wishes you, your pets and your family a safe and happy holiday season. With the best interests of dogs and cats in mind, we wanted to share some holiday safety tips.

  • Don’t let your pets drink Christmas tree water. If you plan to have a Christmas tree this holiday season, we recommend that you securely anchor it in a sturdy stand in order to mitigate the risk of the tree falling and causing injury to a family pet or guest. Also take care to prevent your pets from gaining access to the Christmas tree water in the stand, and quickly clean up any water spills on the floor, as the water might contain fertilizer, toxic preservatives or harmful bacteria that could make your pet sick if ingested. As a precaution, we recommend changing the tree water frequently.
  • Keep ornaments and electric lights out of the reach of your pets. Holiday lights and ornaments are beautiful to look at, but they can present a danger to pets if they break or are the target of chewing by pets. Glass and plastic ornaments can shatter and present a danger to your pet’s paws, mouth and digestive system. Further, a loose wire can deliver a potentially lethal electric shock to a pet and batteries can also cause burns or worse. Use tape to get wires out of the reach of pets and to prevent an accident.
  • Skip the tinsel. Glimmering tinsel is known to attract the attention of pets (especially cats) but it can cause a lot of problems for pets if swallowed, including an obstructed digestive tract, vomiting and sometimes surgery. Tinsel can get wrapped around the base of a pet’s tongue and cause internal cuts if swallowed. We recommend skipping tinsel this holiday season and using pet friendly decorations instead.
  • Choose holiday gifts wisely. If you plan to give your pet a holiday gift or stocking stuffer, we recommend a collection of healthy treats from Boulder Dog Food Company, LLC or toys that are safe and won’t fall apart. Toys are known to come apart and, if swallowed, the pieces can get stuck in the stomachs or intestines of pets, and can require surgery. For cats, we recommend keeping your cats away from ribbon, yarns and loose parts that can cause intestinal blockage and require surgery if swallowed.
  • Don’t keep wrapped food items under the Christmas tree, as pets might ingest the wrapping paper or other packaging and the food items in an attempt to secure a tasty treat.
  • Avoid giving your pet access to toxic foods. There are lots of foods that taste wonderful to humans but can cause problems when eaten by pets. We recommend keeping the following foods far away from your dogs and cats over the holidays (and after):
    • Chocolate, which can be toxic to both dogs and cats. Dark, semi-sweet and baker’s chocolate is especially risky for dogs. If ingested, chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and, in severe cases, death in pets.
    • Xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener that has been shown to be toxic to pets.
    • Fatty, spicy or indulgence foods (like beef fat, poultry skin and spicy foods), which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, gas and other serious gastrointestinal diseases like pancreatitis in pets.
    • Raw eggs and cake batter, which might be contaminated with salmonella.
    • Onion and onion powder, both of which are poisonous to pets. Onion and onion powder destroy your dog’s and cat’s red blood cells, which can result in anemia.
    • Grapes and raisins, both of which contain a toxin that can cause kidney damage (and failure) among dogs and cats.
  • Keep holly, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias away from your pets! If ingested, these plants can make your pets sick. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and mistletoe can cause an upset stomach and cardiovascular problems in pets; both are extremely toxic to pets if eaten. Many types of lilies can also cause kidney failure in cats and poinsettia leaves can cause severe stomach upset. We recommend opting for silk or plastic plants or pet-safe bouquets and plants.
  • Keep wrapping paper, tape, ribbon, scented candles and batteries away from pets to ensure they don’t unexpectedly try to make a meal of these items, which can be very hazardous to pets.
  • Cover trash and remove unattended plates of food to ensure your pets don’t eat anything that will make them sick or necessitate an unplanned trip to the vet.
  • Avoid giving pets alcoholic beverages, as alcoholic beverages (if ingested) can make your pets sick and can result in your pet going into a coma and possibly even death due to respiratory failure.
  • Give pets a room of their own. Make sure that your pets have a quiet and comfortable place to go if they get overwhelmed by the activity of your holiday gathering, especially on New Year’s Eve when loud sounds can scare many pets. Your pets should always have fresh water in this place of retreat. Dogs and cats will appreciate having a quiet room with a cozy place to take a nap while their parents enjoy the holiday festivities.

If your pet has an unexpected emergency or gets sick this holiday season, seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian in your area.

Sources:
(1) ASPCA, “Holiday Safety Tips”, available at http://www.aspca.org/print/pet-care/holiday-safety-tips
(2) VCA Animal Hospitals, “Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs”, available at http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/xylitol-toxicity-in-dogs/4340
(3) North Shore Animal League, “Avoid Holiday Hazards: Keep Your Pets Safe and Secure”, available at http://www.animalleague.org/events-news/press-center/holiday-safety-tips.html
(4) Banfield Pet Hospital, “Keep Pets Safe Over the Winter Holidays”, available at http://www.banfield.com/pet-health-resources/pet-health-concerns/pet-safety-tips/keep-pets-safe-over-the-winter-holidays

 

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

1 Golden Retriever_s

We would like to tell you about a very worthwhile research effort underway at the Morris Animal Foundation in Denver. In an effort to study canine diseases, this non-profit foundation is looking for 1,000 additional Golden Retrievers to participate in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. 2,000 dogs have already enrolled! This study will help gain insight into preventing and treating many canine diseases, but specifically cancer.

Cancer strikes approximately one-third of the canine population over the age of two, but it is especially prevalent in Golden Retrievers. According to the Veterinary School at UC Davis, sixty per cent of Golden Retrievers will die from some type of cancer. Although the cancer rate is nearly double the all-breed average, the average lifespan of Golden Retrievers is still within the same ten to eleven year range.

The two most common cancers are hemangiosarcoma, affecting about one in five Goldens; and lymphoma, affecting about one in eight Goldens. These two cancers represent about half of all the cancers in the breed. The cause for this higher rate in the Golden population is not completely understood but progress is being made.

Cancer is a genetic disease in the sense that errors or mutations in genes are responsible for the disease. But cancer is not inherited unless the mutations occur and are passed along in the germ line cells – namely, the sperm and eggs. Mutations may also occur in the somatic cells which is the other type of cell in the body. It is believed that a combination of mutations in both the germ line and somatic cells are responsible for the high rate of cancer in Golden Retrievers. Inherited mutations would give Golden Retrievers a predisposition to develop cancer. So while not inevitable, it would account for the higher cancer rate that is seen both in the US and abroad. There is also a theory that the early founder dogs in the breed carried mutated genes that have been concentrated through generations of breeding so that this predisposition for cancer is found in Goldens throughout the world today.

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is the largest veterinary observational study ever undertaken to track the health of Golden Retrievers. It will focus on studying the risk factors in the areas of canine genetics, environment and nutrition.

In order to qualify, the dog must be a healthy purebred Golden Retriever with a three-generation pedigree and be under two years of age. Participating in this study does require a major commitment since it will last for the lifetime of the dog. An annual examination from the vet will be needed to examine and collect samples of blood, urine, feces, hair and toenail clippings. And samples of any tumor would need to be submitted for evaluation. Enrollment and more information can be found at http://caninelifetimehealth.org

For those of you with Golden Retrievers who qualify for this study, we urge you to enroll in order to help the breed and all our canine companions.

Donations to the Morris Animal Foundation can also be made on their website and would be much appreciated: http://caninelifetimehealth.org/donate/

 

Book Review: The Genius of Dogs

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 Reviewed by Boulder Dog Food Company LLC

Brian Hare is an associate professor in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University where he founded the Duke Canine Cognition Center. This book details his investigation into how dogs evolved from wolves and why their intelligence can be considered “genius” in many senses of the word.

In terms of animal cognition, intelligence is judged firstly by how well the species has reproduced and survived in different parts of the world. However in some species – the authors give cockroaches as an example – survival depends less on intelligence than on pure hardiness and great reproductive abilities. But surviving for most animals does take a form of intellect to overcome the obstacles that nature and human beings put in their way. Given this as the basis for assessing intelligence, Brian Hare makes the claim that “the dog is arguably the most successful animal on the planet, besides us. Dogs have spread to all corners of the world, including inside our homes, and in some cases onto our beds. While the majority of mammals on the planet have seen a steep decline in their populations as a result of human activity, there have never been more dogs on the planet than today.”

A cognitive approach recognizes that there are many different kinds of intelligence throughout the animal kingdom, including for humans. Neuroscientists believe that the brain is like a computer in that individual parts are specialized to solve different problems. Memory is a well-recognized cognitive ability, but there are many different forms of it including memory for faces, events, facts, navigation etc. So it is no surprise that IQ tests only measure a very narrow slice of intelligence.

According to Hare, “The genius of dogs – of all animals, for that matter, including humans – has two criteria:
1. A mental skill that is strong compared with others, either within your own species or in closely related species
2. The ability to spontaneously make inferences”

Hare and his co-author, Vanessa Woods, then relate the many experiments they conducted that prove how dogs excel using the above criteria. The really interesting fact emerges that they excel because of domestication. Their desire to please humans makes them learn more like human infants than wolves.

When scientists started to study animal cognition, it was believed that the intelligence of domesticated animals had been dulled since they were by-products of human breeding and they had lost the skills to survive in the wilderness. Hare discovered the opposite was true, that “our relationship with dogs gave them an extraordinary kind of intelligence.” In essence he argues, “they were smart enough to come in from the cold and become part of the family.”

Wolves arrived on the scene roughly 2 million years ago and migrated from North America to Asia, Europe and Africa. Many wild carnivores and of course, the Neanderthals, went extinct when modern humans arrived in Europe 43,000 years ago. Humans became the socially dominant carnivores and, apart from the brown bear and the wolf, few other predators survived.

Archaeological and genetic evidence suggests that dogs began evolving from wolves between 12,000-40,000 years ago. Domestication requires genetic changes over many generations. The process of how wolves evolved into dogs remains controversial. One theory holds that wolf puppies were brought into the home and tamed. Hare disputes this accounting since the wolves would have competed with modern man for food – both would have been fiercely possessive of their food and would have fought each other for it.

Hare believes that dogs were “self-domesticated.” He explains this term by saying that the least fearful and aggressive animals had a natural advantage in dealing with humans and that this population evolved on its own to survive and prosper with the newly dominant humans. He believes that these less aggressive animals would have been more successful in foraging near human settlements because they would have posed less of a threat. Subsequent generations would have reinforced these less threatening characteristics of the wolves until, eventually, physiological changes appeared (e.g. floppy ears, splotchy coats) to make themselves more recognizable to humans. An offshoot of domestication was their ability to interpret human gestures. So essentially, natural selection, predisposed to friendliness, led to the self-domestication of dogs.

Hare traveled the globe to see the same kind of natural selection favoring the most friendly members of other species: to Siberia to see an experiment with silver foxes, to New Guinea to see the Singing Dogs, to the Congo to see the bonobos. Hare believes that this same natural selection can be seen throughout the animal kingdom, including in humans.

Selection for friendliness and cooperation and against aggression allowed humans to cooperate and communicate. Early humans would have seen the advantages in sharing food, protecting one another, and caring for each other’s children – which eventually would have led to more reproductive success. Contrary to earlier beliefs that natural selection always favors the smartest, this is the case only if it goes along with the friendliest.

In attempting to answer the question of which breed of dog is the smartest, there are many things to consider including the specific kind of intelligence being sought – working or obedience intelligence. But the short answer is that no breed is clearly the winner. And, there is as much variation within each breed as there is between different breeds.

Although there are broad differences in personality and behavior traits between breeds, it is important to recognize that dogs are genetically very similar despite their specific breed or appearance. Most of the breeds recognized today are less than 150 years old. The dog genome, published in 2003, allowed geneticists to finally confirm their wolf ancestry along with the fact that dogs are still 99.96% wolf. Their physical appearances may vary greatly, but only a small number of dog genes are responsible for the variations in size, skulls, coats and other morphological traits.

The genius of dogs is their ability, across all breeds, to understand verbal and visual communication from humans. A cognitive approach to training works well because dogs are motivated to cooperate with humans and because they can make inferences from solving past problem to tackle new problems.

The domestication of dogs has been a complete success story. Toward the end of his book, Hare concludes, “Dogs show an affiliation toward humans that is unlike any other in the animal kingdom. They prefer humans to their own species and can behave like human infants toward their parents. If the dictionary defines love as ‘a feeling of warm, personal attachment, or deep affection,’ then this is definitely what dogs have for us.” It is up to us to demonstrate that we deserve this devotion.

More Customer Comments

Dear BDFC,
I received my package of dog treats today. I am amazed with your customer service and quality — quality service, quality packaging, and quality items.
Thank you also for the surprise treat samples! That was amazingly generous and much appreciated.
I am so happy that I found your website. Thanks for offering healthy, pure, natural, chewy treats for my very sweet and allergic GSD.
Have a happy 4th of July!
Michele

Dear Michele,
Thank you for your very kind note. We will pass on your complements to everyone in the bakery. We strive for high quality treats and prompt service. We always enjoy hearing from our customers when we have achieved both!
We are happy that you found us too!
Kind regards,
Ed

BOOK REVIEW

Reviewed by
Boulder Dog Food Company LLC
Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This book is a collection of essays that he has written in recent years for Psychology Today. Many have been revised and updated for this publication.

His concerns for the future of ‘nonhuman animals’ are not dissimilar from those of the anthrozoologist John Bradshaw, whose book Cat Sense, we recently reviewed. Both are worried about the prospect for survival of many different species as a result of their interaction with human animals.  He cautions that, “Caring about other animals does not mean caring less for humans …compassion begets compassion and readily crosses species lines. We don’t have to worry about running out of compassion as we try to provide animals with what they need to live in peace and safety.”

The essays cover many topics and many animals. However, we will focus on the section titled “Why Dogs Hump?” which is comprised of 14 essays about dogs.  And before this review ends, we hope to answer that question.

One of the early essays addresses how most dogs appear to have an unqualified trust in us, even when they’ve been betrayed. Bekoff believes that this trust comes about naturally from the evolutionary process of becoming domesticated. He points out that dogs are such social beings and so attached to humans that “even after being abused in experiments and in other situations, they will look up at the human and wag their tails as if to say, ‘This hurts me, but you must mean well. How could you possibly mean otherwise?”

In another essay, Bekoff notes the important distinction between wolves and dogs. Research in a Hungarian lab showed that 4 month old puppies preferred a human companion to that of a dog, though young wolves showed no preference. Bekoff and others believe that the dog-wolf differences are present in both the evolutionary and development levels of each animal. He also thinks that it’s important to distinguish between domestication and socialization. He says that when someone says that he lives with a domesticated wolf, it really means that he is living with a socialized wolf. Bekoff adds, “A domesticated wolf is a dog!”

Bekoff believes that humans have affected the appearance of many dogs and wonders how they would look if certain traits had not preselected in the breeding process. While the conventional wisdom is that some traits are selected to make dogs cuter in order to encourage humans to nurture them, Bekoff thinks it’s more complicated. Humans have different preferences and may or may not be influenced by neotony or juvenilization, or baby-like features referred to as baby-schema.  For many people, a dog’s look denotes a certain meaning, which might be influenced by so-called breed standards.  Or preferences might be based on people’s preconceptions about dogs or whether they even like dogs.

The concept of social dominance among dogs raises many interesting questions. Bekoff believes that all animals engage in dominance at some time in their lives. Some scientists also refer to this as status and talk about how all animals understand their status or relationship to each other. Bekoff states that “As one gets to know individuals in a group, he or she also learns more and more about the subtle ways in which a wide variety of social messages are communicated, including those used in interactions in which one individual controls another.”

Sometimes it’s apparent that ‘situational dominance’ comes into play as when a low-ranking member of the group is able to keep food even when threatened by a more dominant member of the group simply because they both recognize that possession of the food is the more important determining factor.

Dominance hierarchies exist and can be used in positive ways for training methodologies.  But Bekoff cautions, “Dominance does not necessarily mean that one animal ‘beats up’ another individual. Rather it refers to an animal’s ability to control the behavior of another, frequently in nonaggressive ways, for example, using body movements, gestures, odors, vocalizations, eye contact, or a combination of signals.”

And now it’s time to address the all-important question on why dogs hump. There are many theories but Bekoff believes that it’s important to start with the facts:  1) both males and females mount and hump; 2) this behavior starts at an early stage – especially during play; and 3) it should not be considered as abnormal behavior.

While mounting has a sexual overtone due to its function in reproduction, dogs also hump when they’re excited, stressed or afraid. It might be a ‘displacement behavior’ coming from conflicting emotions or stress or even boredom! In short, mounting and humping mean different things to different dogs. Bekoff suggests careful observation and recording of the event if one really wants to understand why a particular canine is engaging in the act. However, if the behavior isn’t causing any real problem, he suggests just going with the flow and not allowing our own discomfort to interfere with the activity.

Treatment Options for Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears

BordercollieBy Boulder Dog Food Company

A rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) of the stifle or rear knee joint is one of the most common injuries seen in dogs. The standard treatment for these CCL tears has been surgery. Most veterinarians continue to believe that, while other options have been developed, surgery remains the preferred treatment. Moreover, they believe that time is of the essence in scheduling a surgical procedure in order to improve the odds for a successful recovery. Otherwise, inflammatory changes in the joint will result in arthritis and a permanent degenerative condition.

However, there are some veterinarians who believe that less invasive surgical procedures along with non-surgical options should be considered. Dr. Narda Robinson DVM, who oversees complementary veterinary education at Colorado State University, is a spirited advocate for alternative treatment. She exhorts her colleagues to “stop cutting cruciates at least until patients have undergone a month or more of conservative care.” She believes that “the chronicity and persistence of canine cruciate disease argues in favor of a long-term, rehabilitative and integrative approach, not for bone saws.” Dr. Robinson claims that the ideal treatment for CCL injuries has not yet been determined and that more research and clinical trials are needed. Moreover, she affirms that since rehabilitation and pain control are usually necessary regardless of whether a dog will undergo surgery, it makes sense to start with these things first to see if the surgery can be avoided.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU takes a different view and believes that a properly diagnosed CCL rupture calls for a speedy surgical option. The two broad categories of surgeries attempt to 1) change the geometry of the stifle or knee joint so that the ligament is no longer needed or 2) replace the damaged ligament itself. In the latter category, the repair can be done inside the knee joint with the body’s own material or outside the knee joint with synthetic material. As of now most of these repairs are extracapsular or outside the knee joint but researchers are working on using synthetic material inside the knee joint to improve the outcome for intracapsular repairs.

The so-called gold standard of surgical procedures, the Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO), is in the first category and is one of the most widely used surgeries for CCL ruptures. It requires cutting and re-orienting the plateau or top of the tibia and stabilizing it with a plate and screws. A variation of this surgery is the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) where the tuberosity or front edge of the tibia is cut and the plate is attached along the front of the shin bone. These surgeries are expensive and involve extensive post-operative care.

At CSU, the cost for pre-operative exams, x-rays, implant, surgery and post-surgical pain management for either the TPLO or the TTA is estimated at $3000-3200. Postoperative care is also critical and mandates a strict restriction of activity for approximately four months. Any premature or excessive activity risks re-fracturing the bone prior to healing.

Surgeries which fall into the second category, attempting to replace the damaged ligament, are somewhat less invasive and more traditional. The Extra-capsular Suture Stabilization (also called the Ex-Cap suture) replaces the damaged ligament with a heavy type of nylon fishing line in a suture designed to stabilize the relationship of the tibia to the femur. A somewhat similar surgery is the so-called “Tight Rope” procedure where specialized sutures are affixed to anchors drilled in the bones above and below the knee joint, thereby stabilizing the joint.

While these external capsular repairs have been improved upon in recent years and are less expensive, they are primarily recommended for small breeds or for sedentary older animals. The TPLO and TTA are recommended for younger more active dogs given that the skeletal structure of the dog knee is under a tremendous mechanical stress even during moderate activities.

If surgery is needed, Dr. Robinson argues that the external capsular repair surgeries are far les traumatic than the TPLO and TTA while having a better safety record and fewer complications. However, she also believes that non-surgical options are essential for those people unwilling or unable to allow their dogs to have any surgery at all.

Non-surgical options include rest and restricting activity for the injured canine, perhaps accompanied by weight loss if the animal is somewhat overweight. Anti-inflammatories are often given to reduce swelling. Rehabilitation therapy can also help the animal recover but most specialists believe that it belongs in a post-operative setting rather than as an option to surgery. A recent development is the advance in custom knee braces although, again, many would argue that bracing is not a long-term solution for an active dog.

Prolotherapy or “regenerative injection therapy” is another nonsurgical procedure being studied for both humans and canines. It involves injecting an irritant solution into the knee joint or damaged ligament to relieve pain. Injections are repeated at regular intervals. Proponents of prolotherapy are also examining the possibility of using growth factor stimulants to induce a regeneration of tissue. The outcome of this research remains unknown.

The Veterinary School at CSU advises that without surgery “the symptoms of lameness and pain may subside with time, (but the ability) to return to normal activity levels will often be limited by the progression of osteoarthritis.” They warn, “It is important to point out that, in general, the earlier surgical therapies are performed, the more effective they are; thus, a ‘wait and see’ approach to non-surgical management based only on wishful thinking is seldom advised.”

While a CCL tear in canines is often compared with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in humans, there are important distinctions. Unlike humans, the tear might be the result of a long slow degeneration taking place in the ligament rather than a sudden trauma to a healthy ligament. And, according to Dr. Tom Suplizio DVM, “Unlike their human counterparts, dogs with even partial CCL tears generally will benefit from surgery. This is largely due to the unique forces that the dog’s stifle undergoes that differs from the vertical position of our knees.” In his argument, Dr. Suplizio warns that “without surgery, chronic instability leads to arthritis and meniscus tears, and puts the opposite knee at risk of injury because of overcompensation. In fact, even with surgery, a majority of dogs that rupture their CCL will rupture the ligament in their opposite knee within a year or two.”

While a conservative approach might be a reasonable response for some injuries, delay in treating a CCL rupture has 10 possible consequences according to the Editorial Blog of Veterinary Practice News:

Pain
Degenerative joint disease (DJD)
Fibrosis
Decreased range of motion
Muscle atrophy
Exercise intolerance
Contralateral CCL tear
Meniscal tear
Weight gain
Future problems with gait and posture

Although there may be differences of opinion about the treatment for CCL tears, everyone agrees on the need for preventive measures. The chief way to avoid a CCL injury is to protect canines from becoming overweight. Obese dogs are four times more likely to rupture a cruciate as non-obese dogs, according to the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

Dr. Suplizio cautions that while there is no way to completely prevent CCL injuries, steps can be taken to minimize the chances of occurrence, advising that “keeping pets in ideal body condition, exercising regularly, and avoiding play that encourages high jumping will help to reduce the risk of CCL damage.”

Sources:
10 Deadly Sins of Untreated ACLs” Dr Phil Zeltzman, DVM
Veterinary Practice News Editorial Blog (July 26, 2010)

“Cruciates: Less Cutting, More Self-Repair” Dr Narda Robinson, DVM, Veterinary Practice News (Posted online November 15, 2013)

“Treatment Options for Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury/Disease of the Dog Knee” Colorado State University, Veterinary Teaching Hospital

“Questioning Canine Cruciate Ligament Surgery” Dr Narda Robinson, DVM, Veterinary Practice News (Posted online October 15, 2012)

“Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tear, a Common Pet Injury” Drs Tom and Tara Suplizio, DVMs, The Daily Sentinel (April 13, 2014)

“Changing Views on CCL Repair” Dr Narda Robinson, DVM, Veterinary Practice News (April 23, 2014)

More Customer Comments:

To Boulder Cat Food Company:

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Ed

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Ed

 

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