Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pet Food Decisions

Have you visited a PetSmart or Petco recently to shop for pet food or supplies? It’s almost like visiting your neighborhood Kroger but without the Starbucks, pharmacy or bakery. Aisle after aisle of competing brands, ingredients, and that ever annoying factory representative hoping to grab a few minutes of your valuable time to “educate” you why their particular brand is better than all the rest . It’s maddening at times, especially if you are in a hurry or aren’t quite certain which product to buy.

According to the National Pet Food Institute, annual U.S. sales of pet food, including treats, reached $19 Billion (that’s billion with a “B”) in 2012. Exports to other countries add billions more. Needless to say, we humanoids love to feed and pamper our pets.

But are all these brands, ingredients and options really necessary? Haven’t we taken something that should be a rather straightforward task (i.e. feeding our family pets) and made it far more complex and expensive than it should be? It’s been said that U.S. household pets probably eat better than half the world human population. We tend to agree and often wonder why it’s become so confusing to select the right diet to care for our furry companions.

Feeding into this dilemma (pun intended) is a certain degree of angst or uncertainty about food ingredients, preservatives and possible allergies - in dogs especially. Almost daily we read or hear of yet another manufacturer trying to warn us of the dangers of grain based diets and all preservatives, in general. To listen to a certain few, it’s almost as if cereal grains, especially corn, have suddenly become another toxicity to be avoided. (Never mind that our ancestors thrived on corn diets for thousands of years and most vegan diets are essentially grain-based.)

Let’s consider a few thoughts from the experts about commercial diets first, and then we’ll review some information later about raw diets (bones, frozen diets etc).

Pet owners may choose to feed unconventional diets for multiple reasons, including having negative feelings about commercial diets and positive feelings about alternative diets. Negative feelings include concerns or misconceptions about certain ingredients (eg, fillers, by-products, carbohydrates) and other potential toxicities. Other clients may prefer to feed so called “natural” diets ( ie, what a wild canine or feline might eat), raw uncooked foods, or to prepare home diets for their pet to avoid triggering a real or suspected food intolerance or allergy. 

Pets foods often contain by-products from human food processing. These include offal (ie, organ meats) and parts that are nutritious but may be unappealing to humans dependent on cultural or religious beliefs. For example, stomach or intestines may be included in pet food, and although these may be considered undesirable in some cultures, they are regularly consumed by humans in others. These products are often nutritious and result in good use of the carcass. Commercial diets may also contain antioxidant preservatives to prevent nutrient degradation or fat rancidification. Some contain coloring agents to make food more visually appealing to clients. These agents are the same as those added to processed human foods and are generally considered safe by most (including the FDA).

There is also great misconception that fillers, such as sawdust, or other indigestibles, are included in commercial pet foods. This is untrue for most, if not all of the top-shelf brands we are most familiar with. Pet foods do, however, contain fiber (ie, indigestible ingredients) which serves many functions such as probiotics for bacteria to promote colon health. Otherwise, most if not all ingredients in commercial pet diets typically provide nutritional value.

Feeding dogs a diet similar to that of wild dogs or wolves (ie, low grains or carbohydrates) has a popular following. Some pet owners opt to feed bones or raw foods, thought to be similar to a wolf devouring a carcass or cat catching prey. Pet owners should be reminded that dogs have been domesticated over the past 10,000 years , during which time their diet involved greater consumption of grains. Their genetic makeup evolved to accommodate this increase in dietary carbs, and today domestic dogs are actually dissimilar to wolves in several key genes involving starch digestion and glucose uptake. Many other metabolic traits were unaffected by domestication and, although dogs and cats will often chose lower carbohydrate diets by choice, both can digest carbohydrates effectively. Cats remain obligate carnivores, requiring higher levels of protein (meat, fish or poultry) than do dogs. 

Next time, we’ll take a closer look at raw (and frozen) diets including bones and how that may impact pet nutrition.
Love your pets and take good care of them.

Dr. David Zoltner is a Denton Veterinarian at Dove Creek Animal Hospital in Denton, Texas.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

He ate what?!?

Gastrointestinal upset in household pets – which usually signifies vomiting and/or diarrhea – is probably the most common clinical complaint seen by Veterinarians on a regular basis. Thankfully the causes are often mild and self-limiting - like a bad batch of pet food or that chicken bone stolen from the trash. Occasionally, though, more serious internal medical conditions can be involved such as liver, pancreatic or endocrine diseases. Bland diets and medications usually relieve or correct these situations. But one of the more perplexing and potentially lethal problems your veterinarian faces are the suspected and too-frequent cases of intestinal foreign bodies or “FB” as known to most DVM's.

An FB can be anything from the indigestible twist tie off that bread sack to the rawhide dog chew that was swallowed whole rather than chewed slowly. (Mother always told you to chew 30 times before swallowing, remember? So Muffin didn’t get the memo?)

The FB can be a diagnostic challenge even for the experienced clinician. Many uncertainties are involved including size of pet and diameter of patient GI tract, composition and shape of the FB (sharp edges?) and degree of dehydration or pain involved. There is no single or simple diagnostic test to rule in/out the suspected FB. Endoscopy may help if the FB is still in stomach or colon. Radiographs are sometimes helpful if the FB is radio-dense like some metallic objects but often FBs are “invisible” to the eye on most X-Rays. Veterinarians can often use contrasting upper or lower GI studies to identify partial or complete obstructions. Newer barium impregnated spheres can be given and traced radiographically. Occasionally abdominal palpation is revealing if the FB is unusually large. Ultrasound is often helpful but not always available in the average office. In short, there is no simple way to diagnose GI obstructions and too many pets and owners have needlessly suffered through painful (and expensive) ordeals.

Often, smaller FBs will pass through the GI tract without causing internal damage (small smooth objects like broken beads for example) but even simple and small things like string can “saw” their way through intestinal lining causing perforations and peritonitis. Cats are notoriously curious and most veterinarians have seen at least one episode with a Kitty that swallowed a sewing needle and thread. (Yummy! You can just imagine the damage caused here!) Unfortunately, some FBs will never be passed and surgery is the only option to avoid fatal GI obstructions. A national veterinary journal catalogued and recently reported just some of the FB items veterinarians have removed surgically. Ready? – an arrowhead embedded in raw deer meat, a 22 inch choke chain, pendant ear rings, three (yes three!) cell phone chargers, 9 golf balls from one stomach, a charm bracelet and an entire box of staples! Here at Dove Creek, we have removed 23 metallic push pins stolen off party favors, a child’s ballerina slipper and a ladies thong.

There is an old saying that “everything in a dog’s world is edible”. In other words, they’ll eat everything or anything and throw up later what didn’t taste good. That is mostly true – especially for the young and curious puppy but even the older dog or cat can fall victim. Just imagine you’re that owner waiting on "Bosco" to “pass” that diamond engagement ring he swallowed or those $50 dollar bills you left rolled up on the nightstand. (Both actually happened!)

A few tips: 1. Don’t leave small clothing articles or children’s toys lying around the house. No one should be surprised if a puppy tries to swallow a sock or sweat-soaked “undergarment”. 2. Be careful what you buy and give to your pets even if it’s sold as a “chew toy” at PetSmart or Petco. And If you see the word “durable” appearing on the label of something meant to be chewed – but not swallowed - ask yourself how would a dog should know the difference? And finally, don’t make “tug-of-war” a game you teach your puppy. That tugged item can later be shredded or destroyed and swallowed after you have gone off to work and puppy gets bored and misses you.

Lastly, vomiting can be either a harmless or serious clinical symptom. Dogs and cats have a voluntary emetic (vomiting) reflex . This means they can vomit at will unlike most humans. (eating disorders excluded?) This means if they vomit ONCE, simply clean it up and move on. But if they vomit more than four times in any four-hour period – or more than eight times a day, seek veterinary attention IMMEDIATELY.

David C. Zoltner, DVM
Dove Creek Animal Hospital
1200 Bent Oaks Ct., Denton, TX.  76210

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"Who's in Charge?"

Canine Behavior - Who's in Charge?
Every team member and Doctor at Dove Creek Animal Hospital is dedicated to see to it that your "furry family friends' are healthy in every respect.  That also means that your pets are happy, well-adjusted to suburban life and are a joy to have around at all times.  Unfortunately, that's not always the case and, regrettably, the leading reason for too many pets being surrendered for adoption (or even euthanized) is for behavioral problems.  Many of these unfortunate cases were preventable had better information reached owners in a timely fashion, or if small problems had been addressed at an earlier stage when they were more easily reversible.

Over the coming months we will, hopefully, post specific information here that will help you better understand the unique relationship between pet owners and canines and how sometimes even good intentions can lead to less than ideal outcomes when training the family dog.

First, let's discuss the general subject of Leadership in the household and why it's so important to having a healthy relationship with your canine companions in terms they understand, and why it's so often misunderstood.  Leadership does NOT mean that owners must physically "dominate" their dogs in any strict sense of the word, nor does it mean that the pet - owner relationship should be cold, impersonal or uncaring.  Quite to the contrary, a canine that feels secure that its' owner is "in charge" is often less anxious, more stable emotionally, and much happier adjusting as a four legged member in a two legged pack.  A lack of leadership by a pet owner often, if not usually, is a root cause of many undesirable behavior patterns of the domestic canine - from barking and annoying habits like leash pulling to more serious offenses such as extreme over protectiveness to outright aggression.

One of the foremost authorities on canine behavior, and the subject of leadership, is Patricia McConnell.  Paraphrasing from her book "Leader of the Pack" she says:

"I know you love your dog, but if you love your dog you will do him no favors by continually catering to him, continually cooing over him, or providing him with no boundaries.  Dogs need to feel secure to be truly happy and that means they need to feel secure that you will be the leader.  Leadership doesn't mean forcibly dominating your dog.  Leadership is more a mental quality in which you set boundaries without intimidation.  Good parents and good teachers know that children need kind and benevolent direction, and good dog trainers know that dogs also need the same thing.  Like children, all dogs need love, but there's a big difference between being loved and being spoiled.  It will do your dog no good to live in a home where he/she can get anything they want by being pushy and demanding.  If you are comfortable being that benevolent leader, your dog can relax, and will love you all the more for it."

Leadership (or lack of) is communicated to your canine pets in many ways.  It often is unspoken and more subtle and may mean the rules sometime have to change in the way they are petted, walked, how they are fed, and even how you look at them and use their name.  Body language is key to the way in which canines interpret who's in charge and where they fit in the family hierarchy.

Dove Creek Animal Hospital encourages you to become a more confident leader and to learn more about this topic by reading any of Ms. McConnell's books and checking our blog often.  We plan to address specific topics - including prevention and remedial behavior therapy - in coming months.  We also offer behavior counseling on an individual, appointment basis for more challenging problem behaviors.  Although we are not board certified, we are very interested in helping our clients through these ordeals if and when they arise.

In the meantime, Be a Leader and your dog will love you for it!

Dr. David C. Zoltner, Denton Veterinarian at Dove Creek Animal Hospital
Denton Veterinarian Dr. David C. Zoltner

David C. Zoltner joined the Dove Creek Team in 2010 after 25 continuous years of veterinary practice in Denton, Texas.  He is a 1976 graduate of Oklahoma State University and has practiced in both Oklahoma and Arkansas before coming to Denton in 1983.  For more information about Dove Creek Animal Hospital visit www.dovecreekanimalhospital.com

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


We are thrilled to welcome you to the Dove Creek Animal Hospital Blog and our very first blog post!  We hope you will make a habit of surfing your way back to us whenever you need information about our veterinary services or pets in general. This new blog will be packed with tons of information over time that we know you will find helpful.


Dove Creek Animal Hospital is located in Denton, Texas at 1200 Bent Oaks Court just off Teasley Lane and near Wind River Lane.  Our phone number is 940-387-3313.  With over 20 years of service to the Denton and North Texas area, we offer routine and emergency veterinary care for small animals.  Dr. Lori J. Hill and Dr. David Zoltner are proud to offer you the very best in veterinary medicine and would like to personally welcome you to "Your Other Family Doctor" someday soon if you haven't already visited with us.


Along with other social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, this blog will be exciting and informative. We will start out soon by posting informative blogs on a monthly basis.  Each month we will provide new blogs, all of which will pertain to pets, pet care, pet ownership or just about anything we feel you would find useful in taking care of your pets!

The blog archive will continue to grow and be kept available so that any information you might need in the future will be easy to access. Please subscribe to our blog to see when we add a new post.


The Dove Creek Animal Hospital Team

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