A photo op missed

All boarder/day care dogs are sleeping nicely after hard play in their picked places.  Picked by them. The labradoodle greeted the Vizsla at the dorr and they began playing immediately. Now that they have tired each other out, time for a nap. In a couple of minutes they will be going for a ride in our air condissioned van to run errons then back to the center for some outdoor play or rest. It is always a fun time for the dogs here. Even when I go on an interview the dogs come with me so they never feel neglected or austrsized.

Medical update for dogs

It seems like there is no good answer as to what we feed our dogs.


You may have read my June 4 post, “
A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and
exotic ingredients.
”  This post had more than 180,000 page views in the first week and
continues to get more than 2000 page views a day.   So, I’m pleased that
people are
interested in this important issue and trying to learn about it.  But I’ve
also found a tremendous amount of confusion and misinformation in the past 5
months including people who doubt that this is a real issue, some who still
haven’t heard about it, and people who mistakenly think it’s just grain-free
diets or that it’s only related to taurine.

As a result of the continued confusion, some of my cardiologist colleagues
and I wrote an article which was published in the latest issue of the
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
This article provides a summary of our current understanding of
diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), how to recognize it, and a
recommended protocol
for veterinarians to follow when they see dogs with DCM.

To be sure this information reaches as wide an audience as possible and to
clear up confusion, I thought I’d provide some updates to address the most
misconceptions I’m hearing:

list of 1 items
1. It’s not just grain-free. This does not appear to be just an issue with
grain-free diets.  I am calling the suspected diets, “BEG” diets – boutique
exotic ingredients,
or grain-free diets.  The apparent link between BEG diets and DCM may be due
to ingredients used to replace grains in grain-free diets, such as lentils
or chickpeas, but also may be due to other common ingredients commonly found
in BEG diets, such as exotic meats, vegetables, and fruits.  In addition,
not all pet food manufacturers have the same level of nutritional expertise
and quality control, and this variability could introduce potential issues
with some products.
list end
list of 1 items
2. Most dogs being diagnosed with DCM do not have low taurine levels. Some
owners continue to feed a BEG diet but supplement taurine thinking that this
will reduce their risk for heart disease.  In our hospital, we currently
measure taurine in all dogs with DCM, but more than 90% of our patients with
in which taurine has been measured have normal levels (and the majority are
eating BEG diets).  Yet some of these dogs with DCM and normal taurine
improve when their diets are changed.  This suggests that there’s something
else playing a role in most cases – either a deficiency of a different
or even a toxicity that may be associated with BEG diets.  Giving taurine is
unlikely to prevent DCM unless your dog has taurine deficiency.  And given
lack of quality control for dietary supplements,
you can introduce new risks to your dog if you give a supplement without
evidence that she needs it.
list end
list of 1 items
3. Raw diets and homemade diets are not safe alternatives. Out of concern,
some owners are switching from BEG diets to a
diet.  However, we have diagnosed DCM in dogs eating these diets too.  And
raw and home-cooked diets increase your dog’s risk for many other health
So, forego the raw or home-cooked diets and stick with a commercial pet food
made by a well-established manufacturer that contains common ingredients,
including grains.  If your dog requires a home-prepared diet for a medical
condition or you feel strongly about feeding one, I strongly recommend you
with a Board-Certified Veterinary NutritionistTM
However, because home-cooked diets are not tested for safety and
nutritional adequacy like good quality commercial diets, deficiencies could
still develop.
list end

Current thoughts on DCM

Currently, it appears that there may be three separate groups of dogs with
DCM (although this may change as we learn more). I am listing them in the
frequency that we are currently seeing them in our hospital:

list of 3 items
1. Diet-associated DCM with normal taurine levels. While this form of the
disease was first identified in dogs of breeds not predisposed to DCM that
eating BEG diets, it appears to also occur in dogs of typical DCM breeds
that are eating a BEG diet.
2. Primary DCM in predisposed breeds that is unrelated to diet. This is the
traditional, genetically-related DCM in typical breeds, such as the Doberman
Pinscher, Boxer, Irish Wolfhound, and Great Dane.
3. Diet-associated DCM with taurine deficiency: This is the least common
form we are seeing in our hospital. This appears to happen both in breeds
to DCM and breeds that are not predisposed to DCM.
list end

Common questions

We still have a great deal to learn about diet-associated DCM.  However, I’m
providing answers to some common questions I’ve been getting based on what
is currently known:

list of 1 items
1. What’s causing diet-associated DCM in dogs? For the vast majority of
dogs, we do not yet know what is causing this disease. There are definitely
dogs with DCM that have low taurine levels, many of which will improve with
taurine supplementation and change of diet.  For dogs that have normal
levels, however, other nutritional deficiencies may be present. Some
nutritional deficiencies can affect the heart’s normal function, so an
amount of these nutrients (or reduced bioavailability) in the diet could
cause heart disease.  Diet-associated DCM could also be due to an ingredient
the food that is toxic to the heart.  The
and many researchers are actively studying this issue so that it can be
solved as quickly as possible.
list end
list of 1 items
2. My dog was diagnosed with DCM. What should I do? Ask your veterinarian to
measure taurine levels and give heart medications as directed by your
If your dog is eating a BEG diet or other unconventional diet (including
vegetarian, vegan,
or home-prepared diets), I recommend following the steps outlined in my
previous post,
including switching to a non-BEG diet.  Three updates to my previous post
list of 3 items nesting level 1
• Taurine supplements:
Consumer Lab
is expected to release a report on independent quality control testing of
taurine supplements in late 2018. Given the lack of quality control for
supplements (human and pet), having these results will be very useful to
find good quality products for dogs that require taurine supplementation.
veterinarian or veterinary cardiologist can help you determine an optimal
dose for your dog.
• Other dogs in the household: We are now recommending that other dogs in
the household of dogs with DCM that are eating the same BEG diet be screened
by their veterinarian since their hearts could also be affected (even if
they are showing no symptoms).
• Outcome: Not all dogs with DCM will improve and improvements in the
echocardiogram, when they do occur, can take a long time (often more than 6
list end nesting level 1
list end
list of 2 items
3. If my dog is eating a BEG diet but has no symptoms, should I test for DCM
or switch to a different diet? It’s unlikely that most dogs eating a BEG
will develop DCM. However, given the fact that we don’t yet understand why
BEG diets are affecting some dogs and because DCM is a life-threatening
I recommend you reconsider your dog’s diet until we know more.  Contrary to
popular belief, there are no health benefits of grain-free or exotic
diets except in the rare case of food allergy. If your dog is a part of your
family and you want to feed him the very best, be sure to base this
decision on more objective factors than marketing and the ingredient list
(see our

Be sure to watch for early signs of heart disease – weakness, slowing down,
less able to exercise, shortness of breath, coughing, or fainting. If you
any of these, get your dog checked out by your veterinarian who will listen
for a heart murmur or abnormal heart rhythm (although not all dogs with DCM
have any changes that can be heard with a stethoscope). Your veterinarian
(or a veterinary cardiologist) may do additional tests, such as x-rays,
tests, electrocardiogram, and ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram – the
test of choice to diagnose DCM).Tell your veterinarian what you’re feeding
your dog. You can help your veterinarian by bringing
a list of everything your dog eats
to every appointment.

If your dog has no symptoms, additional testing is really up to you.  Some
owners have measured plasma and whole blood taurine levels or scheduled an
to check their dog’s heart size and function.  However, given the cost of an
echocardiogram, other owners have elected to have their veterinarian do a
blood test called NT-proBNP, which goes up when the heart is enlarged.
While a normal value doesn’t guarantee your dog has no heart disease, a high
suggests your dog’s heart should be evaluated further.

4. Has diet-associated DCM been seen in cats? The association between BEG
diets and heart disease has only been reported in dogs so far. However, that
doesn’t mean cats are immune.  If your cat is diagnosed with DCM and is
eating a BEG, vegetarian, vegan, or home-prepared diet, I recommend
following the
as described for dogs with DCM.
list end

Lastly, if your dog has been eating a BEG diet and has been diagnosed with
DCM, please don’t feel guilty. I’ve talked to owners who feel terrible
they wanted to provide the finest care for their dog by feeding them the
best diet possible. They often spent a lot of money buying an expensive
diet and now that same diet may be associated with their dog’s heart
disease. Trying to decide what is really the best food is confusing and
because of the many different products available, nutrition fads, and
compelling marketing. My hope is that the one bright side of this serious
is that it will shine a light on the complexities of making safe and
nutritious pet food and the importance of nutritional expertise and quality
rather than just what is new and trendy.

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Allergic to dogs?

Hypoallergenic dogs are said to release fewer dog allergens into their surroundings, with the idea being that they would therefore induce less allergic symptoms in those affected by dog allergies
 In a study that compared the shedding of allergens by hypoallergenic and “regular” dogs, no differences were found
 There’s no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog, but some people with pet allergies do better with certain breeds than others
 Keeping your dog out of your bedroom, eliminating carpeting and using a whole-house air filtration system can help to minimize pet allergens
 Bathing your pet regularly, feeding a species-appropriate diet and ensuring optimal levels of omega-3 fats and coconut oil may also help reduce dander and shedding

About 10% to 20% of the global population is allergic to dogs or cats.1 If you’re among them, you may be tempted to adopt a hypoallergenic dog for your household, but this would be a challenging prospect, since there is no such thing.

Hypoallergenic dogs are said to release fewer dog allergens into their surroundings, with the idea being that they would therefore induce less allergic symptoms in those affected by dog allergies. However, in a study that compared the shedding of allergens by hypoallergenic and “regular” dogs, no differences were found.2

They went so far as to note, “Clinicians should advise patients that they cannot rely on breeds deemed to be ‘hypoallergenic’ to in fact disperse less allergen in their environment.” The idea of an “allergy-free” dog is therefore a myth, but there may be steps you can take to live in peace with your dog, even if you have allergies.

Why These ‘Hypoallergenic’ Dog Breeds Can Still Make Your Eyes Itch

Hypoallergenic dog breeds are often described as those with non-shedding coats,3 such as Afghan hounds, bichon frise, Chinese crested and Portuguese water dogs. However, pet hair itself isn’t an allergen — it’s proteins in your pet’s urine, saliva and dander (dead skin cells) that cause allergic reactions.4

Pet hair may collect allergens like dander, as well as carry other allergens, such as pollen, but it’s important to understand that even hairless dogs can release allergens into your home. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) explains:5

“Cat and dog allergens are everywhere. Pet allergens are even in homes and other places that have never housed pets. This is because people can carry pet allergens on their clothing. Also, allergens can get into the air when an animal is petted or groomed.

Pet allergens can also be stirred into the air where the allergens have settled. This can happen during dusting, vacuuming or other household activities. Once airborne, the particles can stay suspended in the air for long periods.”

In people who are allergic to dogs, their immune system reacts to otherwise harmless proteins, leading to an allergic reaction, which can include symptoms ranging from itchy eyes and sneezing to rashes, swelling, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Some people are allergic to all dogs while others are more sensitive to certain dog breeds than others, according to AAFA.

What to Do if You Have a Dog Allergy but Still Want a Dog

Depending on the severity of your allergy, it’s possible that you could coexist peacefully with a furry canine family member. Although there’s no evidence that dogs with shorter or less-shedding fur are better for people with allergies, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends seeking out such a dog on the off chance that it may help.

“Each animal is different, and a particular pet allergy sufferer may do better with one breed than another,” AAAAI states. “… Some allergists have suggested that a dog that tends to keep its coat throughout the year may be better for allergy sufferers.”6

Newer treatments, such as immunotherapy, may be effective in lessening allergic symptoms in people with pet allergies,7 but there are also other strategies you can take to keep allergens from taking over your home.

“Pet allergens can collect on furniture and other surfaces. The allergens will not lose their strength for a long time. Sometimes the allergens may remain at high levels for several months and cling to walls, furniture, clothing and other surfaces,” according to AAFA,8 which is why some of the best strategies for reducing pet allergies involve changes made around your home.

How to Reduce Pet Allergens

Pet allergens are everywhere, found in more than 90% of homes, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). Dr. Dana Wallace, former ACAAI president, suggested doing the following to reduce pet dander in your home and thereby live more comfortably with your pet:9

Keep your dog out of your bedroom

When washing clothing or bedding, use bleach to reduce allergens

Cover your mattress and pillows with tightly woven microfiber fabric (“dustmite” covers), which will capture dog allergens

Use room air purifiers tested for pet dander and vacuum filters

Use a whole-house filtration system on central heating and air conditioning systems (a MERV 12 filter is recommended)

Eliminate carpeted surfaces as much as possible, choosing wood, tile or other hard-surface flooring instead

Choose leather furniture over upholstery

Bathe your dog regularly

Even with these changes, not everyone with a pet allergy will be able to tolerate living with a dog. Some shelters allow potential adopters to take pets home for a “sleepover” to see if they’re a good match — an ideal scenario if you need to determine if your allergies flare up or not before making a lifetime commitment.

Finally, be sure to feed your pet an anti-inflammatory, species-appropriate diet. I have several family members who are deathly allergic to cats, but because my cats are raw fed their recurrent comments when visiting my house are, “I can’t believe I’m not reacting to your cats.”

By reducing allergenic foods going into your pet you can reduce allergenic saliva (and dander) coming out. Fresh food diets improve the health of every cell of your pet’s body and can often times be the difference between allergic family members living with pets, or not. Adding omega-3 fats to your pet’s raw diet may also reduce shedding and dander associated with essential fatty acid deficiency, and adding coconut oil (both to your pet’s diet and topically) may also help reduce dander and shedding.


my dog does not like …

Getting on a dog’s good side might seem as easy as having a pocket full of treats and knowing the trick to a good belly rub, but our four-legged friends aren’t always easy to please. They’re quick to judge a person’s character, and there are some people they simply don’t like.

It could be a specific person in the dog’s family, a friend of their owner’s, or a random person they meet on the street—but dogs know a foe when they see one. They might growl if the person comes close or simply turn tail and disappear. It seems random, but it isn’t as mysterious as you think. Here are a few reasons why your dog doesn’t like certain people.

#1 – Tone of Voice

Dogs might not be fluent in your language, but they’re experts at picking up tone of voice. A scientific study published in 2016 found that dogs’ brains react based on the tone of voice of the person talking to them.

In the study, the reward centers in the dogs’ brains became activated when the person used a high-pitched, happy voice. The dogs were glad to greet the happy-sounding person, but they reacted negatively or ignored people who spoke with deep or angry-sounding voices.

#2- Body Language

While your dog is assessing a person’s tone of voice, they’re also observing their body language. Dogs depend on body language to help fill in communication gaps. The trouble comes when comparing the way humans perceive specific body movements to how dogs interpret those same signs.

Eye contact, for example, means different things to different species. Between humans, someone who doesn’t make direct eye contact is perceived as shifty, untruthful, or suspicious. In a dog’s world, however, direct eye contact is rude and even threatening. Giving “soft eyes,” or looking slightly to the side, is a sign of respect or deference. Bending over the dog, making wide gestures with your arms, erratic movements, and forcing a dog into a hug are all bad body moves dogs don’t appreciate.

#3 – How Someone Interacts With Other People

A comparative psychologist at Kyoto University performed a study to determine whether certain animals are capable of making social evaluations in the same way humans do. He wanted to know if dogs could tell when a person was being rude to another person and if that knowledge would affect their opinion of the person.

He did a test where a dog watched their owner struggle to open a container. The owner then asked another person for help. Sometimes the person helped, and sometimes they refused. After each interaction, the dog was given the choice whether to accept attention from the other person or ignore them. On turns when the person refused to help the dog’s owner, the dog was more likely to show signs of not liking the rude person. The study shows if a person in your life is regularly rude to you, your dog will decide for themselves they don’t like them. Dogs are Team Owner all the way!

#4 – Smell

Everyone knows a dog’s sense of smell is incredibly powerful. Their first move when being introduced to a new dog or person is to give them a good sniff. If they like what they smell and the interaction goes well—BAM, best friends for life. But if they get a whiff of something intimidating, confusing, or downright repugnant, they’ll follow their nose to better smells.

Dogs that dislike other dogs will often avoid people who smell like unknown canines. Other smells dogs typically don’t like include citrus, vinegar, mothballs, and rubbing alcohol.

#5  Rescue dogs. In some cases, they develop fears and mistrust toward people who remind them of their difficult pasts.

If a rescue regularly cowers around adult men but turns toward women for comfort, there’s a good chance they once suffered abuse at the hand of a man. Gender, hair color, height, race, general appearance—the dog might respond negatively to anyone who reminds them of past pain.  This is why you need to call The Diamond Touch Dog Rehabilitation Centre. I have worked with several dogs that have been either emotionally abused or physically abused and have been successful at helping them through it using possative training methods.

Dog food recall

Thogersen Family Farm of Stanwood, WA, is recalling 4 varieties of raw frozen pet food because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

To learn which products are affected, please visit the following link:

Thogersen Family Farm Pet Food Recall

Please share the news of this alert with other pet owners.

Mike Sagman, Editor
The Dog Food Advisor