Paws For Thoughts

FDA issues warning about thyroid hormones in pet food and treats…

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“The hormones, which come from items made with livestock gullets, can cause hyperthyroidism in veterinary patients.”

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising veterinarians, pet owners and the pet food industry to be aware that pet food and treats made with livestock gullets have the potential to contain thyroid tissue and hormones, according to an agency release. Pets that eat food or treats that contain thyroid hormones can develop hyperthyroidism, a usually rare disease in dogs that is typically triggered by thyroid cancer. Continued exposure to excess thyroid hormones can cause damage to the heart and, in some cases, death, the agency says.

The FDA is issuing the alert following an investigation by the Center for Veterinary Medicine into three reports of dogs from different house-holds that showed signs of hyperthyroidism. In those cases extensive testing on the three dogs conducted at a reference laboratory showed elevated thyroid hormone in the blood but ruled out thyroid cancer, the release states. Symptoms on hyperthyroidism include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, increased appetite, restlessness, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, rapid or labored breathing, vomiting and diarrhea. 

In interviews with the dogs’ owners, researchers found that all owners had fed their dogs Blue Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for adults dogs, or Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs. On the Recommendation of the reference laboratory’s consulting veterinarian, those foods were discontinued for the three dogs.  According to the release, the dogs’ clinical signs disappeared and their thyroid hormone levels returned to normal after the food had been discontinued for a few weeks.

the FDA tested unopened cans of the food and confirmed that it contained active thyroid hormone, which is likely from the use of gullets from which thyroid glands were not completely removed before being added to the food. WellPet, the maker of Wellness, and Blue Buffalo, the maker of Blue Wilderness, have both initiated voluntary recalls of select lots of the affected products on March 17, 2017. Visit the online version of this article at for links to more information.

Consumers should discontinue feeding either of the recalled foods and consult their veterinarian if their pet shows any of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Questions about whether a particular pet food or treat contains livestock gullets or thyroid hormones should be directed to the manufacturer of the product. according to the release. dvm360″


By | Paws For Thoughts

This past weekend, I attended the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association Annual Conference. To all of you feline owners out there, this one is for you. After spending two days listening to various lectures about respiratory diseases, I wondered what I could pass along to you that could be of practical help in controlling feline bronchial asthma.

Feline bronchial disease, also referred to as asthma, is a complex disease, yet there are a few factors that can help minimize the risk and control the disease:

Open air litter box – make sure the box is open so your cat is not breathing dust particles from the litter;
Use only hypoallergenic or dust free litter;
Prevent obesity in your cat, as obesity may exacerbate asthma symptoms and heavy breathing. Feed your cat 30% less of the recommended amount;
If your cat is suspected of having asthma, let your vet confirm the diagnosis. A “cortisone shot and call me in the morning” attitude is not always the solution. Some cats may have an underlying heart disease, or even pneumonia, and cortisone can make things worse. X-rays, blood work , tracheal wash and other tests may be required to assure your cat’s diagnosis;
Bronchial asthma is a chronic disease just like diabetes. It cannot be cured, but it may be controlled. So always keep an eye for any breathing problems. Current thoughts are that cats with asthma should always be on low levels of cortisone, such as prednisone. The old school thought of treating flare ups just with cortisone injections is questioned as it causes too much fluctuation in the control of the condition;
There are companies who make nebulizers, such as Aerokat, for cats. This is an elegant way to provide inhalant instead of oral cortisone, thus minimizing side effects.

Finally, remember that cats are excellent in masking the disease. Learn to recognize and appreciate the saddle changes in breathing patterns, such as, when the cat is lying with the front legs tucked in under the chest, neck stretched out in order to maximize air flow, exhibiting very shallow abdominal breathing and flaring nostrils, and coughing.

I hope these tips will help you and your cat breath a little easier.



By | Paws For Thoughts

Every morning when my kids get on the school bus, I tell them: “learn something new and make new friends.” This week my mind was wondering back to 1995, when every Friday afternoon, I took my dog Ness to a park near the Nature Reserve in Englewood. Ness loved that park because, just before sunset, it was often entirely empty and I thus let him walk next to me without the leash. We used to stop and look at the view of all of Bergen County from the top of the hill, watching the magnificent sunset just before twilight.

It was there, when one day both Ness and I got startled when a strange voice surprised us from behind. It was 84 year-old Max and his dog. Meeting Max and his dog on that one particular day marked the beginning of a Friday afternoon ritual; along the paths we always met Max and his dog: I was happy to see Max, and Ness was delighted to see Max’s dog.

Max was walking there daily, trying to forget his troubles, and enjoying nature and his dog. We quickly became friends and Max told me the troubles on his mind: his heart was aching because one of his sons had an unfortunate turn of events in his life.

Max also had great stories about childhood in the Bronx. He told me how he used to listen to Jazz that was played on his father’s radio during the nights. Max used to place his ear on the wall, stealing sweets moments after he had already been told to go to sleep. Later in life, Max told me, he took that passion for music and supported himself by working in a record store at night and studying music during the day. During summer vacations, he often traveled to Florida to have fun and spend time at the race-track, where, if luck was by his side, he tried to make a buck, saving for the following year.

I lost track of Max when a sign suddenly came up and forbade walking dogs in the park. I never saw Max again.

Years later, a woman came to my office and asked to see me. She said that a man named Max was talking a lot about me and that she wanted to meet with me. The woman was Max’s daughter in law. She regretfully told me that Max had passed away. I was really sad to hear the news, but cherished the moments I spent walking in the park and talking to Max.

Ness passed away since too. This coming March, it will be four years since I had to put Ness to sleep. After all, it was thanks to Ness that I met this lovely man Max. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend many summer afternoons with Max, chatting and getting to know him and learning new things from him.

That casual meeting, while walking our dogs, caused us to let our guards down, open our hearts to each other, and share our lives and our stories–Learn new things, make new friends.

I “paws” to think how wonderful it is when pets are around us, how positively they influence our lives — they make us laugh and relax, and perhaps they even make us – humans – be nicer to each other.

Dr. Ohad Barnea is a 1992 graduate of Tufts University, School of Veterinary Medicine and the owner of Tenafly Veterinary Center and Cliffside Park Animal Hospital.


By | Paws For Thoughts

February is National Pet Dental month. During that time, veterinarians around the country raise awareness about dental diseases in pets. Dental disease is the number one disease in pets. More than 85 % of pets over the age of four have periodontal disease, a more advance and irreversible form of dental disease. Because of bacteria, entering the blood stream and spreading to vital organs, pets with dental disease live, on the average, two to four years less than pets who do not suffer from this condition.

I always notice that some dogs look so beautiful on the outside, having been groomed on a weekly basis, yet they have severe infection in their mouth, with halitosis (bad breath), which really takes your breath away. Let me explain: Pet owners often spend around $40 to $50 per week on grooming in order for their pets to look beautiful — certainly a good reason. But they completely ignore a potentially life threatening infection of the mouth.

This is where I “paws” for thought: Annually, they spend over $2000 for beauty, but they will not allow dental cleaning because it is too expensive. But beautifying your pet on the outside is equivalent to washing and detailing your car regularly, but never performing oil change.

While the risk of anesthesia is, of course, a deterring factor, it seems to me that cost is always an issue. But, all in all, while not inexpensive, dental cleaning, which involves blood work, ECG, anesthesia, monitoring, sub gingival scaling and polishing, x-rays and occasionally antibiotics is a bargain, cost-wise. This is especially true when comparing to the human side and not to mention how vital dental cleaning is for your pet’s comfort and longevity.

I suspect that if your pet could talk, he or she would agree: “I would rather live long and comfortable than die young and pretty.”

Dr. Ohad Barnea is a 1992 graduate of Tufts University, School of Veterinary Medicine and the owner of Tenafly Veterinary Center and Cliffside Park Animal Hospital.


By | Paws For Thoughts

“He can actually run up and down the stairs without waiting for me to pick him up,” the owner of Cocoa, an arthritic Yorki, reported enthusiastically after only one injection of Adeqaun, an all natural medication approved to treat arthritis in dogs. Following a knee surgery, I knew that Cocoa would benefit from a series of injections.

I am writing today about all the other senior dogs that suffer from arthritic pain but go under the radar, sometimes for years. By the time dogs show classic symptoms of arthritis, the disease has settled in for a while. Owners will often accept the signs, which are identical to people of old age. But the trick is to start early.

Adequan treatment yields certain rewards: pets generally respond quickly, there is minimal investment in the treatment, and, most importantly, it poses no risk to your pet. When should a pet be administered adequan? At least a year or two before it becomes obvious that the pet is hurting.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the immediate positive feedback from clients whose pets were treated with adequan. “She ran like a puppy again, the whole weekend, after the first injection,” said the owner of Princess, an 8 year old happy and very active yellow lab. Prior to injecting Princess with adequan, I had doubts myself as to whether she had arthritis as she was so active in the examination room. But my physical exam findings of muscle atrophy in her rear legs supported the use of the injection, as a trial, in order to prove that Princess would benefit from the injections. This series of weekly injections requires no preliminary blood work and has no side effects. There is thus minimal risk medically and financially.

Occasionally, arthritis is simply a matter related to age: more often than not, older dogs have it, but they mask it well by being stoic and somewhat active. And, unable to talk about it as people do, makes the diagnosis even more difficult.

Ironically, another reason that prevents dogs from getting the treatment early on is their owners’ love of them and the owners’ refusal to accept the fact that their dog is no longer a pup. These owners will resist treatment simply because they think their pets are still young. This challenge as well as the difficulty to diagnose early arthritis prompted me to write this article. So if your dog is senior (over 7 years old), careful observation at home, good communication with your vet, and the desire to be proactive, will help many more arthritic dogs live happily and pain-free as they get old.

Dr. Ohad Barnea is a 1992 graduate of Tufts University, School of Veterinary Medicine and the owner of Tenafly Veterinary Center and Cliffside Park Animal Hospital.