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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

February 2018

Full Issue (PDF)

February 2018- Full Issue PDFSubscribers Only

Features

Decoding One of the Biggest Sources of Confusion on Dog Food Labels: The Guaranteed Analysis

Look at the label on any package of dog food, and the most dizzying part will no doubt be the Guaranteed Analysis, a bunch of numbers given either as percentages or “milligrams per kilogram” with no accompanying key to explain their meaning in a dog’s diet. To make matters more complicated still, each number is listed as a “minimum” or “maximum,” so you don’t know whether you’re getting the least or, conversely, the most allowed. It’s very different from the numbers on the Nutrition Facts label for food eaten by people, which gives more practical information that tells the serving size, the calories in that serving size, and what percentage that serving provides of the total amount advised for various nutrients. It also easily allows people to compare apples to apples, so to speak: one jar of tomato sauce to another, one brand of yogurt to another. Why are the numbers on a dog food label so arcane, by contrast?   More...

Why Psychotropic Medication to Help a Dog Through a Behavioral Issue Is Not a “Last Resort”Subscribers Only

One of the big things people worry about is drugging their dog,” says Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, the board-certified animal behaviorist who heads the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic. She is referring to clients’ reactions when she suggests that their dog could use a psychotropic medication to get them over the behavioral hump, whether for separation anxiety, fear aggression, or some other emotionally charged issue. “They think that using a psychotropic medication means sedating a dog out of her troubles,” the doctor says. “It’s sort of a holdover from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.   More...

Choosing the Right Doggie Daycare

In the best of all possible worlds, if you have a dog at home, you will be home, too. Or a second dog will be there so the two can keep each other company. Granted, a lot of adult dogs can deal with the boredom, loneliness, and frustration of having no one to interact with all day, but it doesn’t mean they like it. And it certainly isn’t good for their physical or mental health to lie around with no outlet for their considerable energy or mental acuity and curiosity. As The Pets Hotel, an Australian doggie daycare business explains, dogs are not nocturnal animals. While they are naturally crepuscular, meaning that they have a penchant for activity at dawn and dusk, they also like to spend a fair amount of daylight hours engaged in physical activity and exploration and interaction with their environment — and with other living beings.   More...

Curing, Rather than Simply Treating, Heart DiseaseSubscribers Only

Say “heart disease” when referring to people, and you’re usually talking about narrowed arteries that impede blood flow to the heart muscle, which increases the chances for a heart attack. Say “heart disease” when referring to dogs, and you’re usually talking about a faulty valve between heart chambers that keeps blood from flowing forward, as it’s supposed to. Instead, the heart enlarges from pumping harder than it should have to, and fluid eventually backs up into the lungs. That’s congestive heart failure, and it means the dog keeps gasping for air until he finally reaches a point that he can no longer breathe.   More...

One Man’s Transatlantic Journey to Save His Dog’s LifeSubscribers Only

Dave Errico of a suburb just north of Boston was told during a veterinary visit that his dog had 3 to 6 months to live. That dog was Robby, a 10-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel — the breed most prone to developing a diseased mitral valve that leads to congestive heart failure.   More...

News & Views

The Best Vacation Souvenir Ever

Sure, you can bring home a picture frame ringed by shells or some other tchotchke from the Turks and Caicos. But have you thought about a potcake?   More...

California Outlaws Selling Dogs from Puppy Mills

California has become the first state that will no longer allow pet stores to sell dogs from large-scale pet breeding businesses, aka puppy mills. Instead, stores will have to get dogs (and cats and rabbits) to sell from rescue groups and animal shelters. The law will take effect January 1, 2019.   More...

Expert Advice

Thanks All Around

Like you, Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil, the Head of the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic, will find out by reaching the end of this sentence that she has won a prestigious award from the Dog Writers Association of America. It’s for an article we published in the September 2016 issue. If you go to our website, www.tuftsyourdog.com, and type “Words That Wound” into the search bar, it will come up as one of the choices.   More...

Dear Doctor: The Waddling is not Simply a Cute Sign of Aging

My 11-year-old retriever-Bernese mix, Charlie, always used to walk forward in a normal fashion. But lately, I’ve been noticing that he waddles from side to side as he moves forward, kind of swinging his back in the process. It looks cute, to tell you the truth, and he doesn’t seem distressed in any way. Is this a normal part of aging? I’ve seen other dogs waddle, too.   More...

Dear Doctor: Pit Bulls and Locking Jaws

I read with interest your November editorial, which talked a little about pit bulls. Your comment about pit bulls having locking jaws is way off base and untrue. Please consider a follow-up. There is no dog that has magical locking jaws! As a pit bull owner who fights stereotypes every day, I hope you can understand that a comment like that sets us back 10 years. Thank you, and I am looking forward to your response.   More...

Dear Doctor: The Dog has been Squinting

I think my cattle dog, Shorty, who is about 9 years old, has been squinting when it is very sunny out. I never used to notice this. Could he really have started squinting at this point in life, or is it something that has always gone on but I just never noticed it?   More...