Catswalk Newsletter – Spring 2014

In this issue:
1. News Bites
  • GMO dangers
  • Seeking humans who are allergic to cats
  • Pet Cancer Awareness Month
  • Feline fitness
  • More on jerky treats
  • Is Purina the best cat food?

2. Science Notes

  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
  • Red meat allegy from tick bite?

3. Animal Pain


1. News Bites

GMO dangers: While scientists continue to debate whether genetically modified organisms are good or bad, there’s one thing for sure: GMO crops are heavily sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, which contains the toxic chemical glyphosate (as well as other “inert” ingredients that may also be harmful).
The dangers of glyphosate are becoming ever more clear: liver, kidney, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nerve, and respiratory damage; reproductive problems; and cancer.
Nearly all corn and soy grown in the U.S. is GMO. These products are consumed directly by our pets if their food contains corn or soy, but glyphosate is also present in the meat of poultry and livestock who are fed GMO corn and/or soy (as nearly all of them are!). Glyphosate persists in the environment and is unchanged through processing. The only sure defense against this toxic chemical is to avoid processed foods (especially dry kibble) and non-organic meat, eggs, and poultry.
Seeking humans who are allergic to cats: Our good friend Jo Singer recently posted a great article on cat allergies. She explains that it isn’t cat fur or dander itself that is the allegen, but Fel d 1, a protein found in sebum, a lubricant produced by glands in the skin.  This protein “attaches itself microscopic particles of dry skin called dander…these particles quickly become airborne and attach themselves to our skin, to bedding, carpets, clothing and other objects.” But, says Jo, there’s a new treatment now being studied: a potentially breakthrough drug called Catpad that requires only four injections instead of the dozens of shots needed under current hyposensitization regimens. Catpad is still in trials and not yet approved by the FDA; but researchers are looking for more participants in the study. Participants must be between the ages of 12 and 65, have a cat at home, and have been diagnosed with a cat allergy for at least two years. To find out if you qualify, Call Melanie Carlson at 330-479-3333. Click here to read Jo’s full article; and click here for more tips on how allergy sufferers can comfortably live with a cat.
Pet Cancer Awareness Month: Increasing rates of cancer in pets are alarming; half of dogs over 10 years of age will die from it. Cancer rates in cats are lower, but many cancers tend to be more aggressive in cats than in dogs. Since May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Rodney Page at Colorado State University (Dr. Jean’s alma mater) has written an article describing the top ten warning signs of cancer in pets:
  • Abnormal swellings that persist or grow: As we like to suggest, pet your pet! This is the best way to find lumps, bumps or swelling that could be anywhere on the body.
  • Sores that don’t heal: Non-healing sores can be a sign of infection or cancer. Your veterinarian can determine the reason a sore is not healing.
  • Weight loss: Illness could be to blame if your pet is losing weight but is not on a diet.
  • Loss of appetite: It’s not normal for pets to lose their appetite; inappetence is another sign of possible illness.
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening: Bleeding can occur for a number of reasons, most of which are abnormal. We consider unexplained vomiting and diarrhea as abnormal discharges, as well.
  • Offensive odor: This is a common sign, especially for tumors of the anus, mouth or nose.
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing: This is a common sign of cancers of the mouth or neck.
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina: This can be one of the first signs that your pet is not feeling well.
  • Persistent lameness: There can be many causes of lameness, including nerve, muscle or bone cancer.
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating: Schedule a veterinary evaluation if your pet displays any of these symptoms.

Click here to read Dr. Page’s full article; and click here to read Dr. Jean’s article on holistic Cancer Prevention and Treatment.

Feline fitness: Blogger Katie Luiss contacted Dr. Jean and other cat experts to find out their favorite toys and methods of keeping cats healthy and fit. Not surprisingly, Go Cat’s Da Bird was the most popular toy. (Her article is no longer online.)
More on jerky treats: Testing on Chinese-sourced jerky treats has now found the pesticide DEET and the anti-flu drug amantidine (Tamiflu) in the meat. FDA has received toxicity reports on more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, and three people: there have been more than 1,000 canine deaths. Meanwhile, Petco has pledged to remove Chinese jerky treats from its stores…eventually (by the end of 2014). Get right on that, why don’t ya?
Is Purina the best cat food? It is if you believe GoodGuide.com, a site that rates all sorts of products based on several criteria. For pet food, those factors include Health, Environment, and Society. Under Health, specific ratings are given for three levels of ingredient quality (desirable ingredients in high quantities, desirable ingredients, and less desirable ingredients); life stage option; nutritional adequacy statement; and calorie disclosure. However, it’s unclear just how these factors are weighted in their analyses.
For example, the highest scoring cat food (Purina One Urinary Tract Health dry food, score 7.5) has only 2 desirable ingredients in high quantities (chicken and egg product), while the lowest scoring cat food (Wellness Core Fish & Fowl for Adult Cats and Kittens dry food, score 4.4) has 5 desirable ingredients in high quantities (salmon meal, deboned turkey, deboned chicken, chicken meal, white fish meal). The Purina food got 9.8 out of 10 on Health, but Wellness received a score of 6.1 out of 10, despite having many more high quality ingredients. Oh, but Wellness got penalized for containing cranberries, probiotics, flaxseed, kelp and yucca; while Purina got extra credit for “desirable” ingredients like wheat flour, ground yellow corn, brewers rice and animal fat. Srsly?? Cats shouldn’t be eating any of those cheap, poor quality, high-carb ingredients; and animal fat is the catch-all rendered ingredient that the FDA found most likely to contain the euthanasia drug sodium pentobarbital. Ack!
Moreover, the life stage designation and nutritional adequacy statements are required and therefore present on all pet food labels; so how does Purina get a 10 on both, but Wellness gets only 7 for life stage and 6 for nutritional adequacy statement? Evidently, GoodGuide thinks that a food suitable for all life stages is less nutritious than a food falling in either of the only two existing designations (adult and growth/reproduction)–which is an unfounded and truly stupid assumption. Or are they falling for the artificial life stage designations so beloved by the big pet food companies, like “mature” and “babycat”? Folks, there’s no such thing in the world of pet food.
And while positive scores on environmental impact and societal responsibility are laudable, they appear to get nearly equal weight with the health value of the food. This makes Purina, which donates millions in dollars and product to shelters and its own non-profits to maintain its image, float to the top; while far better foods that use their money to buy healthy ingredients, get the shaft.
In other words, GoodGuide.com is a bad guide for your cat’s health! If you want to feed your cat for optimal health, just use the guidelines in our article on Selecting a Good Commercial Pet Food.

Want even more reliable, comprehensive, down-to-earth recommendations for what and how to feed your cat? Get Dr. Jean’s Amazon best-selling e-book, What Cats Should Eat! (Kindle-friendly, but no Kindle necessary!) It’s also available as a PDF download in the Little Big Cat Bookstore.


2. Science Notes

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): A recent study examined the risk  factors for CKD in cats. Associations were found with thin body condition (particularly recent weight loss), prior periodontal disease, prior cystitis, anesthesia or dehydration in the preceding year, being a neutered male (vs spayed female), and living anywhere in the United States other than the northeast. Cats who were currently experiencing vomiting, polyuria or polydipsia, appetite or energy loss, or halitosis (bad breath) were more likely to have kidney dysfunction. One lesson to take home is the importance of good dental care to prevent periodontal disease; while cautioning that anesthesis is a risk factor–possibly because many vets do not routinely give fluids, or perhaps do not give enough, during anesthesia. (Greene JP, Lefebvre SL, Wang M, et al. Risk factors associated with the development of chronic kidney disease in cats evaluated at primary care veterinary hospitals  J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2014;244:320–327.)

Allergy to red meat due to tick bite? Physicians are seeing an increase in serious red meat allergies among humans in the Southeast and the Eastern Seaboard. But rather than meat itself being the culprit, researchers have attributed the problem to bites from Lone Star ticks. According to Robert Valet, MD, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, “The thought is that the tick has the [galactose-α-1,3-galactose] sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite, and that causes the production of the allergy antibody that then cross-reacts to the meat.” While such a link has not been studied in pets, it’s certainly possible that a similar mechanism could be at work, particularly in pets who develop severe beef, pork, venison, or other red meat allergies; or allergies to dairy products from cows. (Wolver SE, Sun DR, Commins SP, et al. A peculiar cause of anaphylaxis: no more steak? The journey to discovery of a newly recognized allergy to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose found in mammalian meat. J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Feb;28(2):322-5.)


Dr. Jean is proud to announce the release of her second book with nutritionist Celeste Yarnall, PhD: Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf. Available for pre-order now and in your favorite bookstore and online on June 3, 2014. Visit www.paleodogbook.com for more info! 


3. Animal Pain

That animals suffer pain that needs to be treated is, believe it or not, still not completely accepted by veterinarians. In the bad old days, we deliberately withheld painkillers from animals post-surgery because “the pain will keep them inactive so they won’t hurt themselves.”
Even when veterinary organizations acknowledge pain, they may still get it wrong. For example, the mission statement of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists says that the organization “believes that animal pain and suffering are clinically important conditions that adversely affect an animal’s quality of life, either in the short or long term. Furthermore, the ACVA endorses a philosophy that promotes prevention and alleviation of animal pain and suffering as an important and tenable therapeutic goal. Clinically, unrelieved pain does not provide any benefit in animals; therefore, veterinarians should strive to manage pain in animals under their care. The ACVA acknowledges that complete elimination of pain in individual animals may not be obtainable or desirable.” And those last two words echo the old attitude that leaving pets in pain is somehow beneficial.”
While the concept of pain management is slowly spreading among veterinary practitioners, it’s certainly not universal. There are still only 70 certified pain specialists in the U.S. Dr. Michael Petty, DVM, president of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM), said in an interview with Tufts University, “I have to believe that over 95 percent of animals in pain are not getting proper treatment…Age is never the sole reason an animal stops doing something. “Old dogs like to play, go for car rides and eat,” says Petty. “They just do things a little bit more slowly because they have decreased muscle mass. They don’t have the energy of youth, but they still like to do all those things.” If pets are not interested in daily activities, like eating, playing, or grooming, or has more “accidents” in the house, there’s a very good chance that it’s due to pain.
A survey of veterinarians published in 2000 found that 30% of veterinarians used no pain meds at all for declaw surgery, one of the most painful procedures performed on animals. Of the others, the majority (70%) used primarily butorphanol, a drug that known to be largely ineffective in cats.(1)
Recently, a survey was done at The Ohio State University specifically looking for signs of pain in dogs and cats presented to the vet school’s emergency service. They found those signs in 56% of dogs and 54% of cats; numbers considerably higher than were found in previous research; likely because there is now broader knowledge about subtle signs of pain in animals that were previously unrecognized.(2)
There have been several “Grimace Scales” developed to analyze facial expressions as signs of pain. There are Grimace Scales for rats, mice, rabbits, and horses; but none so far for cats or dogs. These signs include: turned-back ears, pulled-back whiskers, wringled nose, cheek bulging, and squinty eyes.
However, cats and dogs do show similar signs of pain, but there are no “official” criteria, and most veterinarians are not yet trained to recognize them. It’s up to you to carefully observe your pet and, if you believe you’re seeing signs of pain, discuss it with your veterinarian and insist on treatment. Most vets will give your pet a trial treatment of pain medication, and you can observe whether or not your pet’s behavior changes. You’re the #1 advocate for your pet, so get to work!
Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.51.27 AM

The Mouse Grimace Scale. These mice are showing: no pain (left), moderate pain (middle) and severe pain (right).

(1) Wagner AE, Hellyer PW. Survey of anesthesia techniques and concerns in private veterinary practice. J Am Vet Med Assoc.2000 Dec 1;217(11):1652-1657. Thirty percent of veterinarians used no pain meds at all; of the others, 70% used primarily butorphanol.
(2) Wiese AJ, Muir WW 3rd, Wittum TE. Characteristics of pain and response to analgesic treatment in dogs and cats examined at a veterinary teaching hospital emergency service. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 Jun 15;226(12):2004-9.

Do you have a dog, or do you have dog-loving friends? Then check out Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf, the newest book by award-winning authors Jean Hofve, DVM and Celeste Yarnall, PhD, from Rodale Books, available June 3, 2014. Now taking pre-orders at your favorite bookstore!


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