Paws and Learn: August 2018 Animal News Updates


Author: Dr. Clarissa G. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

Welcome to our August 2018 edition of ‘Paws and Learn: August 2018 Animal News Updates’. Take a moment to catch yourself up with current animal events and news!

Some Good News:


  • How to feed cats properly (Moscow-Pullman Daily News)
  • Update on the correlation between grain free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM): Lawndale Veterinary Hospital has received a lot of questions about the link between grain free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy since we originally posted information in our June 2018 News Updates Blog. We reached out to North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to hear their take on things. One of their cardiologists, Dr. Terri DeFrancesco, provided us with some additional helpful information that we wanted to share with our pet owners. Here is Dr. DeFrancesco’s email response:

“The issue with grain free diets and heart disease is complex. Although we are confident there is a link we are unsure of what the actual nutritional issue is.

About 1 – 2 years ago, we started to see atypical young to middle aged small breed dogs with BAD dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure. We thought it odd but it happens occasionally. Then we saw 2 unrelated mini schnauzers (3 and 7 years old) living in the same household with heart failure and DCM – that’s when we became super suspicious that it was diet related. Other cardiologists across the USA had also noted housemates eating “boutique” grain free diets with heart failure (HF) and DCM. There are over 300 cases of diet associated DCM in the US. The ACVIM Cardiology Specialty group is keeping a registry as well as the FDA. We have seen some reversibility of the DCM (more than would be expected with just heart failure meds) in these DCM associated HF dogs that survive the HF episode when we switch the diet, and add taurine and heart failure medications.

The diet in our experience (NSCU) that is most commonly associated with DCM has been a Kangaroo and Lentil diet. But there have been many diets implicated. One diet has been discontinued (California Natural Kangaroo and lentils).

The frustrating thing is that despite investigations on many different possible etiologies, the nutritionists, cardiologists and FDA have not been able to find the actual nutritional issue. One theory was that legumes (lentils, peas) used instead of grain have high amounts of phytic acid that can block absorption of nutrients, but phytic acid levels were just recently tested and were not excessive. So we are not sure what the actual issue is.

Dogs are omnivores and so variety is important. Many owners use these limited ingredient diets because of allergies but this may not be good if they only eat kangaroo and lentils for years and nothing else. I’ve shared a couple of links below that you may find helpful.”


Pet Food Recalls:


Zoonotic Diseases:

Capnocytophaga Infections: Perhaps you have recently heard about the two different residents in Wisconsin (these were unrelated events) who developed infections from a bacteria called capnocytophaga after exposure to dog saliva:

Very sadly, the bacterial infection caused the death of one of the residents, and it led to the amputation of the hands and portions of the legs in the other resident. For many pet owners, these stories have been troubling. Capnocytophaga species commonly live in the mouths of dogs and cats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 74% of dogs and 57% of cats have detectable capnocytophaga in their mouths. These bacteria do not cause illness in dogs or cats, but rarely the bacteria can spread to humans and cause illness. People who have weakened immunity may be more likely to develop these rare opportunistic infections. For example, excessive alcohol consumption, having your spleen removed, or having cancer or an infection such as HIV could lead to a weakened immune system.

A recent USA Today article provides some additional information that may help pet owners put their minds at ease. In the article, Jennifer McQuiston, a veterinarian and Deputy Director of the Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology with the CDC, discusses her thoughts on Capnocytophaga infections. Dr. McQuiston is quoted as saying “I have two dogs and they play and lick my children every day, and I am not concerned about capnocytophaga. What’s really happening is a rapidly overwhelming bacterial infection”. So, she and other experts say that more important is recognizing the symptoms of sepsis – a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection – and getting immediate medical attention. Furthermore, if recognized early, capnocytophaga will respond to antibiotics. (Infections from a dog lick are a risk but very rare. Experts say get medical help fast) (



Canine Respiratory Illnesses: