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How Do Alternative Pet Diets Affect Your Animal Companion?

Published September 12, 2012 in Dr Peto Says, What's New |
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Due to popular feeding trends, veterinarians will soon be experiencing greater number of cases involving nutritional deficiencies. In their efforts to avoid certain ingredients deemed harmful or philosophically unacceptable, more and more fur parents are choosing homemade cooked or raw diets over commercial diets.

As much as we agree with the homemade alternative, there is more concern over what to leave out than knowledge about what to leave in. The web is rife with recipes for those seeking alternatives to commercial food. Unfortunately, most of these sources offer nutritionally unbalanced diets for our animal companions.

Here is a rundown on the bolts and nuts of balancing alternative diets.

How to Balance Alternative Diets

Specific food (rather than any generically lumped) sources and quantities (not percentages, guesstimates, etc.) must be established. All meats, carbs, oils, and vegetables are not created equal. Cuts of meats range from as low as 46mg of phosphorus per ounce to 97mg. The amount of the fat and linoleic acid varies, from meat source to meat cut.

Organ meats (liver, kidney) differ in their vitamin content from source to source and in the production method of the animal source. Different carbohydrates have different calorie, vitamin, and mineral content. Vegetables vary extremely in vitamins and minerals based on their plant family and color. This is why specificity is important. Once specified, the ingredients can be analyzed as a group. Properly feeding your animal companion is not a by-gosh-and-by golly internet exercise.


All alternative diets need supplementation, even the raw diet that includes bone and organ meat.

The above analysis allows knowing the quantity to supplement. This creates another problem because not all supplements are created equal. Bone meal is a good example. There are at least five readily available bone meal sources. None are the same. They range in calcium levels of 700mg to 1620mg per teaspoon, and 340 to 500mg of phosphorus per teaspoon. If a recipe does not specify the bone meal brand then the recipe could be deficient or excessive in calcium and phosphorus.

The ratio of those ingredients is also important. It needs to be about 1.2 to 1.5 calcium to phosphorus. Without knowing precisely how much of these ingredients are in the diet, let alone the bone meal supplement, the ratio is completely unknown

Vitamins and minerals are even worse. Every company has its proprietary blend that varies enormously from brand to brand, including children’s supplements. Most homemade recipes suggest supplementing with any vitamin mineral supplement. Again, without knowledge of the recipe and supplement content, the adequacy of the diet for vitamins and minerals is completely unknown.

Do Your Homework

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) found that homemade cooked or raw recipes from popular websites and books (some authored by board certified veterinary nutritionists) did not meet the daily requirements established by the NRC for many ingredients.

The Disaster

Nutritional deficiencies are not acute. They take their toll over time – years to a decade – before their effects are evident. Moreover, the symptoms are not always specific and will not be reflected in the routine blood analysis performed in veterinary hospitals. Many nutrients do not even have specific blood analysis capabilities.

Because all commercial foods are quantitatively nutritionally balanced, most veterinarians do not have nutritional deficiencies on their diagnostic radar. Some fur parents do not even reveal that they feed homemade. Most veterinarians are not well versed in nutrition and are not capable of assessing the nutritional status of these diets.

And even if accurately identified, supplementation may not reverse the damage. Combine these factors, and the trend toward unbalanced, homemade cooked or raw diets, nutritional deficiencies may become as common as the other malnutrition syndrome, obesity.

Adapted from The Pending Pet Nutrition Disaster,originally appeared on petMD.com

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Canine and Feline Lymphoma – Similar But Not Identical Diseases

Published September 8, 2012 in Dr Peto Says, What's New |
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Lymphoma (or lymphosarcoma, as it is also called) results from the unregulated growth of malignant lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). In dogs, the disease typically affects lymph nodes (most obviously observed in the chest region, armpits, behind the knees, groin, and/or under the jaw), bone marrow, liver, and spleen, but can also be seen in the eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. In cats, the chest, kidneys, nose, skin, spine, and gastrointestinal tract are the most commonly involved parts of the body.

Many dogs present with enlarged lymph nodes and no other clinical signs of illness, while some dogs and most cats have symptoms such as depression, lethargy, vomiting, weight loss, decreased appetite, hair loss, and fever. Lymphoma can usually be diagnosed with routine lab work and an aspirate or biopsy of the affected tissues, although more specialized tests are sometimes necessary to reach a definitive diagnosis.

There are several classification systems for lymphoma based on whether it is high, intermediate, or low grade (a measure of aggressiveness), where it is located in the body, and what type of cells are involved (T- or B- lymphocytes).

Chemotherapy is the treatment of choice for most companion animals with lymphoma. Surgery may be an option when the disease in confined to a specific part of the body. There are a wide range of chemotherapeutic drugs that can be used to treat this disease, and they generally work best when given in combination.

Using the steroid prednisone alone can improve the quality, and sometimes quantity of life. While there is no cure for lymphoma in dogs and cats, chemotherapy often results in remission (no outward signs of cancer).

In dogs, the first remission can last 6 to 8 months or more depending on the chemotherapy protocol used. A second remission is generally a little more difficult to achieve and lasts a shorter time. Survival times average between 9 and 12 months but can be significantly shorter or longer in certain cases. Prognosis is better if an animal presents with only enlarged lymph nodes and with B-cell lymphoma rather than T-cell lymphoma. A dog appropriately treated for lymphoma can live a comfortable, happy life for many months.

Unfortunately, the prognosis is not as good for cats as it is for dogs. About 75 percent of cats go into remission with treatment, but the median survival time is usually only 6 months. If left untreated, most cats will not survive longer than 4-6 weeks after diagnosis. Palliative care like nutritional therapy and pain medication can help keep cats comfortable as the disease progresses.

A personalized treatment plan is important to slow the progression of lymphoma. Do talk to your trusted veterinarian about what is best for your animal companion.

Adapted from petMD

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