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Published: Sunday, 3/25/2007

Ask the vet: What to watch for if your pet has eaten tainted food

The recent pet food recall has worried a number of pet owners due to the scope and breadth of brands involved. The main type of food implicated to this point has been the canned variety, and many companies are pulling it off the shelves as a preventive measure.

Rat poison was found in the food, but investigators don t know how it got there.

The primary concern has been reports of kidney failure caused by the tainted food. Unfortunately, veterinarians have not been given any more information than the general public. We have been counseling people to look closely for an increase in their pet s water consumption or going outside to urinate more frequently. These can be symptoms of kidney trouble and prompt intervention by your veterinarian is needed.

Other signs reported have been vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. These too can be associated with kidney trouble and tests should be run to see if the kidneys are affected. In comparison to the number of dogs eating these foods, the incidence of trouble is extremely low. Check the food brands and lot numbers involved. If your pet is not eating any of these foods there is nothing to worry about. But if your pet has, switch foods, watch him closely, and call your veterinarian with any concerns.

For more information about the recall go to www.avma.org, which is a good resource for the consumers.

Dear Dr. Thompson: I recently heard about someone who will clean your dog or cat s teeth without anesthesia. Is this an alternative? We do it for people, why not dogs and cats?

ANSWER: I researched this when I heard about it and I was aghast that this is being marketed to people solely to prey on their fears of anesthesia for pets.

People will sit patiently for 30 to 60 minutes while a hygienist works on their teeth. Dogs and cats will not permit this. The other problem is the majority of pets teeth lie below the gum line. Periodontal disease cannot be treated effectively without often working hard below the gum line to remove infection and plaque.

The crowns of dogs and cats teeth are very convoluted and difficult to effectively clean under the best circumstances. Dogs have molars back deep in their mouths that cannot be accessed by just opening the mouth. These are some of the most frequently infected teeth I find. The consequences of overlooking infected teeth are painful and potentially life-threatening in the long run.

The bacteria continually shower the blood stream and can settle on heart valves and in the kidneys and liver. Cats have painful erosions called resorptive lesions below the gums that require X-rays to fully evaluate and treat. Oral surgery or periodontal therapy is needed for most pets undergoing dental treatment, and general anesthesia makes this safe and painless.

General anesthesia is a common concern regarding dentistry for our pets. The newer anesthetic agents are dramatically safer than those of 15 years ago. Newer monitoring technology is now widely used in veterinary medicine. This equipment continually checks the blood oxygenation, heart rhythm, and blood pressure during the procedure. This allows for less anesthetic to be given and more accurate monitoring of how your pet is doing.

Failure to thoroughly evaluate and treat the extent of dental disease in your pet s mouth will lead to more problems down the road. Anesthesia is needed to ensure no problem goes unnoticed and untreated. There are always those who will use fear to market to people and unfortunately the pets lose when this type of procedure is cloaked under the guise of being in your best interest.

Questions for Dr. Thompson can be e-mailed to askthevet@theblade.com or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.



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