Category Archives: Medical Advice

Pet Food and Nutrition

By Dr. Zajac

photo_weightIf you have a pet, you have probably noticed that there is a lot of overwhelming information about pet food and nutrition out there. It seems we are constantly bombarded by TV ads, internet sites and pet store promotions all claiming to have the best and healthiest foods for our pets. We also can get differing information from our neighbors, family members and friends, groomers, trainers, and pet store employees. If you feel confused or overwhelmed by what to feed your pet, here are a few simple tips to make that stroll down the pet food aisle less challenging.

First, determine into which “life stage” category your pet falls. This label can be found on pet food products in the fine print (the important stuff is always the fine print). It is determined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and is usually found under the ingredient panel of the food. This feeding guideline is established by AAFCO and helps to minimize the risk of malnutrition or oversupplementation if followed. Life stages define subsets of pets based on their nutritional needs at certain stages in their lives and include “growth/gestation/lactation,” “maintenance,” and “all life stages.” Puppies, kittens, pregnant and lactating pets would fall into the first category, adult dogs would be in the second, and the third group claims that it can be fed to any pet at any time. Watch out for the “all life stages” label. For a food to be labeled as such, it must meet the nutritional requirements of the life stage that needs the MOST nutrition (calories, fat, protein, etc.). That is the first category, the growing pets and those that are pregnant or producing milk. This means that if your pet food is labeled as an adult food but the AAFCO statement claims it is sufficient for “all life stages,” you are actually feeding a puppy food (or kitten food if it is for cats). This may be why some of our pets seem to not eat a lot of food, but they are overweight and can’t lose weight even when we decrease their food. Feeding an all life stage food to an older pet with kidney disease or heart disease may be detrimental to their health. These foods may be too high in protein, salt and phosphorous for diseased organs to process.

Second, beware of labels that claim the food is “holistic,” “grain-free,” or “hypo-allergenic.” There is no legal definition for the term “holistic” when it comes to food. Any company can put that label on their food, but there are no actual requirements necessary for the food to meet. It just may mean a higher price tag. Some foods that are labeled as “grain free” or “hypo-allergenic” may in fact not have grain, but if your pet is allergic to a certain meat protein, it won’t help itchy skin or gastrointestinal discomfort. Also, there may be grain contaminants in the food because the previous batch of food may have contained grain (similar to how we have warnings on some of our foods that alert us that some products were made in the same factory where there are peanuts and other foods that may cause allergic reactions).

Third, it is important to consider the nutrition in the food, not just the ingredients. Animals can get essential amino acids, proteins and trace minerals from plant sources as well as meat sources, just as vegetarians can have a complete and balanced diet while avoiding meat. Even if the first ingredient on the label is not meat, it doesn’t mean that the food is nutritionally deficient.

If you have questions about pet food labels or what life stage food is appropriate for your pet, ask your veterinarian for more information. It may also be helpful to bring an empty bag or can of the food to your vet. There are so many out there that we sometimes aren’t familiar with every brand!

Asthma and Allergies in Pets


As if we need another reason to be aware of me, May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Many of my social media friends may not realize this but I suffer from environmental allergies. This is why my coat is sometimes less than perfect. While other sufferers may be embarrassed by this fact, I want to use my position as an AHDC blogger to spread awareness of allergies in my dog and cat friends. Our allergy symptoms are often different than those you experience. Below I listed some common symptoms you may see in your allergic pets:

  • Red staining to feet and fur (saliva stains red)
  • Licking or chewing feet
  • General itchiness
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Sneezing with clear nasal discharge
  • Clear eye discharge

I’m also going to share the spotlight today with my friend, Duck, who has been diagnosed with asthma. Duck gets treated regularly with an inhaler to help keep his symptoms at bay.

Asthma is a much more serious illness and needs to be addressed quickly. Here are signs to watch for if you are concerned about asthma:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Trouble breathing
  • Blue lips or gums
  • Open mouth breathing

If you notice any of these symptoms in your 4-legged kids, please call my friends at AHDC.


National Pet Diabetes Month

November is National Pet Diabetes Month. Are your pets at risk? The likelihood of your cat or dog developing diabetes is anywhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 500 and experts say those numbers are increasing. Diabetes mellitus, the clinical name for “sugar diabetes,” is a disease that affects glucose in your pet’s blood and is caused by a shortage of insulin or when the body can’t process insulin properly. Diabetes in dogs is usually type 1 while diabetes in cats is usually type 2 but can progress to type 1. The food that your pet eats is broken down into small components that the body can use. One of the components, carbohydrates, is converted into sugar or glucose. If there is too little insulin or the insulin cannot be processed correctly, then the glucose is not able to enter the cells and provide energy. Because the cells cannot absorb glucose, a diabetic pet may always want to eat but still look malnourished. If your pet exhibits the following symptoms, he or she may have diabetes: -Excessive drinking or urination, -increased appetite (early stages) or loss of appetite (late stages), -weight loss, -lethargy or weakness, and -vomiting or other intestinal problems. If your pet has these symptoms then let us or your veterinarian know so we can get started on creating a plan for your and your pet. Although diabetes is not curable, it can be managed with daily insulin injections and changes in diet (and exercise for dogs). Oral medications have shown to be not particularly helpful. Successful management of your pet’s diabetes means that he or she can live a happy and healthy life. Making sure that your pet is eating a proper diet, gets regular exercise, and maintains a healthy weight can be a big help in preventing diabetes. For more information about pet diabetes, visit

What causes pet periodontal disease?

What causes pet periodontal disease? Pet periodontal disease starts when bacteria form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. These bacteria can then travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys and liver.

Veterinary Dentistry: Dental Radiographs (x-rays)

Dental radiographs are crucial for a thorough assessment of oral health. Dental radiographs show the parts of the teeth “below the gumline,” which is where most dental disease is found. The roots and the bone surrounding the roots are able to be seen and assessed. In order to have dental radiographs performed, a pet must be anesthetized and a digital sensor is placed in the mouth and the xray machine is placed close to the patient’s face in order to get the radiographic image. Here is an example of what a normal dental radiograph looks like. 1 All too often, teeth seem fine on the surface but the surrounding bone or root of the teeth could still have serious problems which need to be addressed. Possible problems include tooth root abscesses, root fractures, weakened or loss of jawbone, dissolving roots and cancer. On the flipside, teeth can look very diseased on the surface with heavy tartar and staining but the roots and surrounding bone are healthy. Once a veterinarian has looked at all the teeth in the patient and on the radiographs, only then can they decide which teeth need to be removed or even which teeth do not need to be removed. Here are some pictures that show problems that could not be seen without radiographs: 2 Broken jaw 3 Loss of bone around tooth 4 Tooth root abscess 5.tif This tooth is only supposed to have 2 roots, the one in the middle is an anomaly and knowing it is there would help with extraction if the tooth ever needed to be removed. In addition to finding problems with teeth, veterinarians are able to remove teeth faster and safer when they know what the problem actually is which means less time for your pet to be under anesthesia and less pain afterward surgery. AHDC is now able to provide your pet with dental radiographs. We recommended for all pets, even ones with no obvious problems above the gumline.

Deer Ticks

Bad things come in small packages
The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), often referred to as the black-legged tick, is small and unassuming. But don’t be fooled by appearances—this tick can transmit Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, two very serious and often-diagnosed diseases. These are also zoonotic diseases, which means they can infect people as well as pets. The deer tick is commonly found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and upper midwestern regions of the United States.

IMPORTANT RECALL: Virbac issues expanded recall for Iverhart Plus Flavored Chewables

Virbac has expanded its voluntary recall of Iverhart Plus Flavored Chewables following its initial recall notice in April 2013. Virbac directs consumers who have questions about the recall to contact Virbac Technical Services at 1-800-338-3659, ext. 3052. According to PetMD, additional specific lots of the heartworm preventive are being recalled because they might not fully protect dogs in the upper third of each weight range. PetMD cited a letter distributed by Virbac saying that 14 lots of Iverhart Plus Flavored Chewables were below Ivermectin potency levels prior to their expiration. Another 17 lots are being recalled out of caution even though they remain within specification. Please help us share this information. To read more of the details, go to:

Dog and Cat Diabetes

Diabetes is an endocrine (glandular) disorder in which animals either do not produce insulin or are unable to respond to its effects. As a result, there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, which can damage the kidneys, eyes, skin, and cardiovascular and nervous systems. Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine disorders in cats and dogs. Although it is treatable, diabetes is a major health concern that ultimately decreases the lifespan of affected animals. The lifespan of overweight dogs is about 15% shorter than leaner dogs, and overweight dogs suffer from a variety of disorders and chronic health problems, such as osteoarthritis. Check List for Diabetes Prevention Diabetes is a sneaky disease. The signs develop slowly and can easily be missed if one were not actively looking for them. This Diabetes Awareness Month (November), owners are encouraged to consider the following tips to help prevent diabetes, rather than trying to treat the condition once it develops.
  • Consider the breed before you adopt.
  • Be familiar with a healthy body weight and strive to maintain that weight throughout your pet’s life.
  • Discuss diet options with your veterinarian to ensure optimal nutrition and facilitate weight loss.
  • Have your pet examined by a veterinarian annually, even if it appears healthy.
  • Critically assess your pet frequently: What and how much is it eating, drinking, defecating and urinating? How is its activity level? Has its behavior or the appearance of its coat changed recently? If yes, be sure to consult your veterinarian.
For additional information on the causes, signs and the most up-to-date guidelines on the prevention and treatment of diabetes in dogs and cats, please contact us at the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County 717.652.1270