Go ahead and sleep with your dog—it’s perfectly safe, as long as you are both healthy.
In fact, sharing your bedroom with your canine companion—as long as he isn't under the covers—may actually improve your sleep, according to recent research published by Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Although researchers didn’t study the impact of felines sleeping with their pet parents, anecdotally, veterinarians suggest the results are mostly positive (though the nocturnal cat may be a bit more disruptive).
“Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home,” stated Lois Krahn, M.D., study coauthor and a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus in a press release. “Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”
The report left many pet owners puzzled, though.
Pet experts have long advised pet parents not to sleep with their dogs or cats for at least two main reasons: it will promote poor behavior in the animal and could lead to serious illness in humans.
Many vets now believe concerns over such issues are overstated or just incorrect. The resultant behavior can negatively impact both pet parents and their four-legged friends, says Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, who specializes in small animal internal medicine and oncology. “Sleeping with your pet is an important ritual for many people,” she says. “It doesn’t need to be avoided if both pet and owner are healthy.”
Behavior Issues Related to Pets Sleeping on Beds
Despite what you’ve heard, allowing a dog or cat on the bed doesn’t cause behavioral problems. There are aggressive animals that you may not want to allow on a bed. Their aggression is often rooted in fear and is not caused by allowing them on beds or furniture, says certified dog behavior consultant and professional trainer Russell Hartstein.
“There is chronic confusion over this issue. It is completely fine to have them on the bed,” says Hartstein, CEO of FunPawCare, based in Los Angeles and Miami. “It’s actually funny this question even exists. These dominance theories were debunked (long ago). One reason people believe some of this is that some animal TV show hosts don’t follow evidence-based science.”
The bigger issue, Hartstein says, is the pet owner’s lifestyle. Do they mind pet hair on furniture? Are they comfortable sleeping with a pet by their feet? Will a cat’s decision to leave in the middle of night disrupt the person’s sleep? If owners don’t mind these inconveniences, the pet will enjoy the bed as much as the owner.
“Pets love their parents and are drawn to their scents,” he says. “They also prefer sleeping on elevated spaces.”
If sleeping on the bed isn’t comfortable for the pet parent, Hartstein suggests installing a comfortable, clean pet bed in or near the bedroom. Put a piece of your clothing—such as a T-shirt—in the bed so the pet can enjoy your scent.
Can Children Share a Bed with Pets?
Like adult pet parents, young children often want to sleep with the family dog or cat. All cases differ, of course, but it’s generally unwise to have a child of 6 or younger sleep alone with a pet.
“Before a child should sleep alone with a pet, it’s my opinion they should show that they can handle the responsibility,” says Dr. Carol Osborne, a veterinarian who practices at Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Ohio. “A parent should monitor a child to make sure they use good judgment when they feed, water, or walk it. That’s very important.”
Pulling a pet’s tail, rough play, or neglecting his needs are all indications that the child is not yet mature enough to sleep with a pet. Dogs and cats may tolerate some childhood mischief but become fearful and will eventually strike out. Wait until the child has a record of maturity with the pet before allowing them to sleep together.
One point you needn’t worry about, though, is a cat smothering a sleeping infant. That’s an old wives’ tale, says Osborne and others. A tale of such an incident was told more than 300 years ago and has not faded from the public consciousness. “Most cats are not interested in babies,” she says. “They make random motions and they smell bad.”
It’s still a good idea to keep pets away from babies, though. Babies, especially those younger than 3 months, are more susceptible to certain kinds of infections because of undeveloped immune systems.
Health Concerns of Sleeping with a Pet
Perhaps the greatest concern pet parents have about sleeping with a dog or cat is that they will catch a disease from him. It would be “very rare” for something like that to occur if the pet and person are both in good health, our experts agree.
Good health for a pet means no fleas, ticks, or other parasites, no illnesses, up-to-date vaccinations, and regular vet checkups.
“There’s a reason your vet wants to see your pet every year,” Hohenhaus says. “A vet wants to keep the pet healthy and identify risks so you don’t get sick, too...But with the average, healthy pet, there is a very low risk they will spread an illness to a person.”
And for people, good health in these cases is basically defined as those who are not immunosuppressed. Cancer patients, transplant recipients, and H.I.V.-positive people are among those who should not sleep with pets.
Although there was a recent report of a dog infecting a human with the plague,such transmission is extremely rare, our experts agree. The Centers for Disease Control reports that the majority of the approximately eight annual cases of plague in the United States occur in rural parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and California and are transmitted by rodents.
“Keep in mind that the CDC reports that contracting a disease from a family pet is ‘rare,’”Osborne says. “And sleeping with a pet has its benefits. A dog’s body temperature is higher than ours, so particularly on a cold night, it’s nice to snuggle with a dog. And dogs help us relax and allow some people with insomnia to sleep without [medications].”
Dogs Are Even More Like Us Than We Thought by MAYA WEI-HAAS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, PUBLISHED JULY 20, 2015
For one, canines shun people who are mean to their owners, a new study says.
IT'S LIKELY NO surprise to dog owners, but growing research suggests that man's best friend often acts more human than canine.
Dogs can read facial expressions, communicate jealousy, display empathy, and even watch TV, studies have shown. They've picked up these people-like traits during their evolution from wolves to domesticated pets, which occurred between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago, experts say.
In particular, "paying attention to us, getting along with us, [and] tolerating us" has led to particular characteristics that often mirror ours, says Laurie Santos, director of the Yale Comparative Cognition Laboratory. (Read more about how dogs evolved in National Geographic magazine.)
Here are a few of the latest studies showing the human side of our canine companions.
A pug watches humans in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park in Alaska. Dogs are very observant of their owners' interactions with other people, new research suggests.
Social eavesdropping—or people-watching—is central to human social interactions, since it allows us to figure out who's nice and who's mean.
According to a study published in August in the journal Animal Behaviour, our dogs listen in too. (Read "Animal Minds" in National Geographicmagazine.)
In a new study, scientists tested 54 dogs that each watched their owners struggle to retrieve a roll of tape from a container. The dogs were divided into three groups: helper, non-helper, and control.
In the helper group, the owner requested help from another person, who held the container. In the non-helper group, the owner asked for help from a person, who then turned their back without helping. In the control group, the additional person turned his or her back without being asked for help. In all experiments, a third, "neutral" person sat in the room.
After the first round of experiments, the neutral person and the helper or non-helper both offered treats to the dog.
In the non-helper group, canines most frequently favored the neutral person's treat, shunning the non-helper. However, in the helper group, the dogs did not favor either the helper or the neutral person over the other. Scientists have previously observed similar results in human infants and tufted capuchin monkeys. (See "Can Dogs Feel Our Emotions? Yawn Study Suggests Yes.")
So are dogs taking sides by ignoring the people who are mean to their owners? Only future research will tell.
Made You Look
Gaze following is instinctual for many animals—including humans, chimps, goats, dolphins, and even the red-footed tortoise—because it alerts animals to everything from immediate threats to "a particularly tasty berry bush," says Lisa Wallis, a doctoral student at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna, Austria.
Dogs were previously thought to follow human gazes only when food or toys were involved. Now, a new study suggests dogs also follow human gazes into blank space—but only if they're untrained. (See "5 Amazing Stories of Devoted Dogs.")
"We know they should be able to do it," says Wallis, leader of the research published in August in the journal Animal Behaviour, but training was the "missing piece of the puzzle."
In recent experiments, Wallis and her colleagues recruited 145 pet border collies with a range of training levels and ages. The researchers wanted to see if age, habituation, or training influenced the dog's tendency to follow a human's gaze.
Wallis then observed the dogs' reactions as she gazed toward a door. Surprisingly, only the untrained border collies followed her gaze—the trained animals ignored it. That may be because trained dogs learn to focus on a person's face, and not where the person is looking.
When Wallis and colleagues spent just five minutes teaching the untrained dogs to look at her face, they began ignoring the instinct to follow her gaze.
Even more surprising is that the untrained dogs often glanced back and forth between her and the door, baffled at what she was looking at. The behavior, only seen before in humans and chimps, is called "check backs" or "double looking," she said. (Read about war dogs in National Geographic magazine.)
"It's a lesson for us all that we should always examine whether training has an effect in these types of studies," says Wallis.
Next Steps in Dog Research
In humans, aging hastens declines in short-term memory and logical reasoning skills, making it more difficult to learn new tasks. Previous research has found similar declines in dogs, but long-term memory is a little-known aspect of dog biology. (See "Many Animals—Including Your Dog—May Have Horrible Short-Term Memories.")
That's why Wallis and colleagues are studying how dogs both young and old memorize tasks, and whether the animals can remember them months later.
The results are still in the works, but Wallis expects to discover that it's tough—but not impossible—to teach old dogs new tricks.
Every home contains a variety of everyday items and substances that can be dangerous or even fatal if ingested by dogs and cats. You can protect your pet’s health by becoming aware of the most common health hazards found in many pet-owning households.
Hazards in the KitchenFoods
Many foods are perfectly safe for humans, but could be harmful or potentially deadly to pets. To be safe, keep the following food items out of your pet’s menu:
Many household cleaners can be used safely around pets. However, the key to safe use lies in reading and following product directions for proper use and storage.
For instance, if the label states “keep pets and children away from area until dry”, follow those directions to prevent possible health risks. Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used properly, but can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration. In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce serious chemical burns. Some detergents can produce a similar reaction and cats can be particularly sensitive to certain ingredients such as phenols.
As a general rule, store all cleaning products in a secure cabinet out of the reach of pets and keep them in their original packaging, or in a clearly labeled and tightly sealed container.
As with household cleaners, read and follow label instructions before using any type of pesticide in your pet’s environment. For example, flea and tick products labeled “for use on dogs only” should never be used on cats or other species, as serious or even life-threatening problems could result. Always consult with your veterinarian about the safe use of these products for your pet.
If a pet ingests rat or mouse poison, potentially serious or even life-threatening illness can result; therefore, when using any rodenticide, it is important to place the poison in areas completely inaccessible to pets. Some of the newer rodenticides have no known antidote, and can pose significant safety risks to animals and people.
Hazards in the BathroomAll medicines should be tightly closed and stored securely and away from pets.Medications
Medications that treat human medical conditions can make pets very sick. Never give your pet any medication, including over-the-counter medications, unless directed by your veterinarian. As a rule, all medicines should be tightly closed and stored securely and away from pets.
Medications that pose higher risk include:
Bath and hand soaps, toothpaste and sun screens should also be kept away from your pets. They can cause stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhea. Keep toilet lids closed to prevent your pets from consuming treated toilet bowl water that could irritate their digestive tract.
Hazards in the Bedroom & Living RoomWhile they may smell good, many liquid potpourri products contain ingredients that can cause oral ulcerations and other problems, so keep them out of the reach of your pets.
Just one mothball has the potential to sicken a dog or cat; mothballs that contain naphthalene can cause serious illness, including digestive tract irritation, liver, kidney and blood cell damage, swelling of the brain tissues, seizures, coma, respiratory tract damage (if inhaled) and even death (if ingested). Tobacco products, pennies (those minted after 1982 contain zinc) and alkaline batteries (like those in your remote controls) can also be hazardous when ingested.
Hazards in the Garage & YardAntifreeze, Herbicides and Insecticides
Ethylene glycol-containing antifreeze and coolants, even in small quantities, can be fatal to pets. While antifreeze products containing propylene glycol are less toxic than those containing ethylene glycol, they can still be dangerous. In addition to antifreeze, other substances routinely stored in the garage including insecticides, plant/lawn fertilizers, weed killers, ice-melting products, and gasoline also pose a threat to your pet’s health if ingested.
When chemical treatments are applied to grassy areas, be sure and keep your pet off the lawn for the manufacturer’s recommended time. If pets are exposed to wet chemicals or granules that adhere to their legs or body, they may lick it off later; stomach upset or more serious problems could result.
Polyurethane adhesives are found in a large number of household products, and some can be very dangerous if ingested by pets. In particular, several brands of expanding wood glues – those containing diphenylmethane diisocyanate (often abbreviated as MDI) – have the potential to form obstructive gastrointestinal masses if ingested. The ingested adhesive can form an expanding ball of glue in your pet’s esophagus and/or stomach, creating a firm mass that can be 4-8 times the glue’s original volume. This effect has been reported from as little as 2 oz. of glue, with the obstructive mass forming within minutes of the pet ingesting the adhesive.
Paints and Solvents
Paint thinners, mineral spirits, and other solvents are dangerous and can cause severe irritation or chemical burns if swallowed or if they come in contact with your pet’s skin.
While most latex house paints typically produce a minor stomach upset, some types of artist’s or other specialty paints may contain heavy metals or volatile substances that could become harmful if inhaled or ingested.
Plants - Inside or Around the House
There are many household and yard plants that can sicken your pet.There are many household and yard plants that can sicken your pet. Some of the most commonly grown greenery that should be kept away from pets includes:
Other Household HazardsSmall items that fall on the floor can be easily swallowed by a curious pet. Such items include coins, buttons, small children’s toys, medicine bottles, jewelry, nails and screws. The result may be damage to your pet’s digestive tract and the need for surgical removal of the object.
While electrical cords are especially tempting to puppies, ferrets and pet rodents who like to chew on almost anything, even an adult dog or cat could find them of interest; burns or electrocution could result from chewing on live cords. Prevent this by using cord covers and blocking access to wires.
A note about narcotics
Narcotics, including marijuana, can pose life-threatening risks to your pets if ingested. If you suspect your pet has ingested any narcotics, please notify your veterinarian immediately so your pet can receive the life-saving treatment they need.
Holiday HazardsHolidays and visitors can pose a special challenge to your pets. Discourage well-meaning guests from spoiling pets with extra treats and scraps from the dinner table. Fatty, rich, or spicy foods can cause vomiting and diarrhea and lead to inflammation of the pancreas, which can be life-threatening. Poultry or other soft bones can splinter and damage your pet’s mouth or esophagus.
While trick-or-treating is fun for children, it can be hazardous to pets. Halloween treats such as chocolate or candy sweetened with xylitol can make a harmful snack. Certain holiday decorations (especially tinsel, ribbons and ornaments) also pose a hazard to pets, so make sure nothing is left on the floor or on tables within reach.
String-like items can damage your pet’s intestine and could prove fatal if not surgically removed. While poinsettia is not deadly as popular legend would have it, it could still cause an upset stomach if consumed. Holly and mistletoe are more toxic than poinsettias and can cause intestinal upset. Christmas tree water treated with preservatives (including fertilizers) can also cause an upset stomach. Water that is allowed to stagnate in tree stands contains bacteria that, if ingested, could lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
A Special Note of Caution to Bird OwnersMost hazards listed here also apply to your pet bird, particularly if it is allowed to roam freely outside of its cage. In addition, birds are especially vulnerable to inhaled particles and fumes from aerosol products, tobacco products, certain glues, paints and air fresheners. Birds should never be allowed in areas where such products are being used. As a rule, birds should never be kept in kitchens because cooking fumes, smoke and odors can present a potentially fatal hazard.
What to do if your pet is poisonedDon’t wait! Time is critical for successfully treating accidental poisoning. Pick up the phone and call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435; a consultation fee may apply). Be prepared to provide your pet’s breed, age, weight and any symptoms. Keep the product container or plant sample with you to assist in identification so the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made.
Why Do Dogs Scratch the Ground After They Pee? By Emma Bryce, Live Science Contributor | August 4, 2018 08:36 am ET
If you're a dog owner, chances are, you're accustomed to having bits of grass and soil flung into your face — a phenomenon that can usually be traced to your canine's peculiar habit of scooping up chunks of earth with its paws and propelling them energetically into the air.
Veterinary experts call this behavior "ground scratching." It's usually dismissed as a nuisance — an odd and unexplained quirk of canine behavior. But research suggests that it can also tell us a lot about dogs.
First, not all dogs perform the bizarre ritual of vaulting dirt into the air. In fact, it seems to be a fairly uncommon behavior. [20 Weird Dog and Cat Behaviors Explained by Science]
"It appears to occur equally in males and females, but only around 10 percent of dogs do it," said Rosie Bescoby, a clinical animal behaviorist with the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors in the United Kingdom. The behavior is also triggered by a precise set of circumstances: Typically, dogs put on this enthusiastic performance just after they urinate or defecate, when they enter a new area with unfamiliar smells or after they smell another dog's poop, Bescoby told Live Science.
And ground scratching isn't exclusive to dogs; wolves, coyotes and other mammals, like lions, do it, too. In fact, several observational studies on the ground-scratching habits of these other animals — especially coyotes and wolves — have given researchers some of the most helpful clues about why dogs might be doing it, said Carlo Siracusa, a veterinary behaviorist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
"In wolves, for example, they live in packs, and so it's related to their social natures," Siracusa told Live Science, explaining the findings of previous studies. "The dominant animals in the pack tend to show this behavior to delimit their territory. So, what they're presumably doing is, trying to send messages to other wolves that, if they cross this line, they might be attacked. It's directed to strangers, not to animals of the same pack."
This territorial marking process has two main features, Siracusa said. First, there's a visual mark — the scratches that the animal leaves behind on the ground. Second, there's the scent mark left behind by urine, or by fluids secreted by glands in the wolves' paws as they scrape up soil and shower it across the ground. "So, this is the theory behind it: Either you see me doing it, you see the dirt that has been moved or you smell my scent," Siracusa said.
How does this compare to what we see in dogs? First, ground scratching in domestic dogs is often accompanied by urine marking on a nearby tree or clump of grass, which mirrors the territorial marking behavior seen in coyotes and wolves. Moreover, dogs also appear to secrete special marking fluids from their paws.
"It's unclear whether [other] dogs are picking up a scent from the scratch marks, but we do know dogs have sweat glands on their pads and/or sebaceous glands in the fur between their toes," Bescoby said.
Siracusa added that these glands in the feet also produce pheromones, meaning that dogs may be leaving these smelly substances in the soil and then widely dispersing them through their vigorous kicking. This could provide a powerful chemical signal to other dogs that they've been there, Siracusa said. It's unclear precisely what function these pheromones have, so it's difficult to draw conclusions about what message they could send to other dogs, he cautioned. But as with wolves, it's likely that these pheromones provide some notification to other animals that they're nearby. [Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before Lying Down?]
Is this behavior aggressive?Although it's tempting to draw the conclusion that ground-scratching behavior is aggressive — a way of actively threatening other dogs with a fight if they encroach on demarcated territory — Siracusa thinks it's more nuanced than that. Domesticated animals don't own and manage "territories" the same way wild animals do.
So, he believes that, instead of aggressively warning other dogs to stay away, ground scratching may simply be a dog's way of notifying others of their own presence — possibly to reduce the likelihood that they'll encounter one another in a confined area. As in, "I'm leaving a messagejust to let you know I'm around," Siracusa said. "So, if you know me, and we're on good terms, it's OK for you to be around here. But if we don't get on so well, you may want to stay away."
In his clinical work with dogs, Siracusa has also noticed (although only anecdotally) that ground scratching tends to be more common in nervous, insecure pets. But this doesn't mean all ground scratchers are anxious, he emphasized; it's an entirely natural behavior and not anything to be concerned about.
But for edgier animals especially, it might be "an attempt to control the space and make it safer," because "they're actually not a big fan of meeting other dogs," Siracusa told Live Science. That may also explain why dogs tend to scratch the ground more when they're in unfamiliar territory and why female dogs who are spayed do it more than ones who aren't, according to Bescoby.
So, what does all this mean for the owners of ground-scratching pets? According to Siracusa, the best way to deal with this behavior is simply to let dogs get on with it, instead of trying to quash their mud-flinging instincts.
"In general, we recommend that people give the dog the possibility to show this behavior," he said. Stopping them from exchanging these secret messages with other animals — albeit through the medium of sand showers — "just makes them feel more vulnerable’," Siracusa said.
And does ground scratching ever become a real problem for dogs? Bescoby said no. "Only for owners who complain of grass and mud being kicked into their faces!" she said.
Original article on Live Science.
Dogs are capable of understanding the emotions behind an expression on a human face. For example, if a dog turns its head to the left, it could be picking up that someone is angry, fearful or happy. If there is a look of surprise on a person's face, dogs tend to turn their head to the right. The heart rates of dogs also go up when they see someone who is having a bad day, say Marcello Siniscalchi, Serenella d'Ingeo and Angelo Quaranta of the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy. The study in Springer's journal Learning & Behavior is the latest to reveal just how connected dogs are with people. The research also provides evidence that dogs use different parts of their brains to process human emotions.
By living in close contact with humans, dogs have developed specific skills that enable them to interact and communicate efficiently with people. Recent studies have shown that the canine brain can pick up on emotional cues contained in a person's voice, body odour and posture, and read their faces.
In this study, the authors watched what happened when they presented photographs of the same two adults' faces (a man and a woman) to 26 feeding dogs. The images were placed strategically to the sides of the animals' line of sight and the photos showed a human face expressing one of the six basic human emotions: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust or being neutral.
The dogs showed greater response and cardiac activity when shown photographs that expressed arousing emotional states such as anger, fear and happiness. They also took longer to resume feeding after seeing these images. The dogs' increased heart rate indicated that in these cases they experienced higher levels of stress.
In addition, dogs tended to turn their heads to the left when they saw human faces expressing anger, fear or happiness. The reverse happened when the faces looked surprised, possibly because dogs view it as a non-threatening, relaxed expression. These findings therefore support the existence of an asymmetrical emotional modulation of dogs' brains to process basic human emotions.
"Clearly arousing, negative emotions seem to be processed by the right hemisphere of a dog's brain, and more positive emotions by the left side," says Siniscalchi.
The results support that of other studies done on dogs and other mammals. These show that the right side of the brain plays a more important part in regulating the sympathetic outflow to the heart. This is a fundamental organ for the control of the 'fight or flight' behavioural response necessary for survival.
Materials provided by Springer. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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Bison and chickpeas. Wild boar and sweet potatoes. Kangaroo and lentils.
These are just a few of the spectacularly popular selections of “grain-free” dog food that have deluged the pet food market in recent years. Dense with exotic proteins, teeming with legumes favored by health-conscious humans, they are promoted as delicious as well as nutritious — better for gluten-sensitive bellies, closer to the ancestral, protein-rich diets of the Yorkie’s savage forebears.
But earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it is investigating a link between these diets and a common type of canine heart disease.
The condition is dilated cardiomyopathy, or D.C.M., in which the heart weakens and becomes enlarged. Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty breathing, coughing and fainting. Some dogs can abruptly go into heart failure.
D.C.M. is typically seen in large breed dogs that have a genetic predisposition for it, like Doberman pinschers, Irish wolfhounds, boxers and Great Danes. But CVCA, a practice of 19 veterinary cardiologists in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, alerted the F.D.A. that it has been seeing D.C.M. among other breeds, including golden retrievers, doodle mixes, Labrador retrievers and Shih Tzus.
The common factor was a diet heavy in peas, lentils, chickpeas and potatoes — carbohydrates typically intended to replace grains.
Other veterinary cardiologists have also noticed the phenomenon. “The first clue for us was when we saw a household with two unrelated miniature Schnauzers with D.C.M.,” said Darcy Adin, a veterinary cardiologist who teaches at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “They were both eating the same boutique, exotic protein, grain-free diet.”
Her team has documented 36 dogs with suspected nutritional D.C.M., including poodles and dachshunds.
The possibility that expensive food, lovingly chosen, could make one’s adored pet devastatingly ill is sending shudders through dog owners.
“Don’t panic,” said Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian who is deputy director for the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in the F.D.A.’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
There are no recalls yet, she said. Millions of dogs happily and safely vacuum up these diets. The number of patients so far is small.
Grain-free products in a pet store in Lutherville, Md. Sales of grain-free dog food rose to nearly $2.8 billion by the end of 2017, 44 percent of the market.
CreditAndrew Mangum for The New York TimesCVCA, the group that contacted the F.D.A., did a survey of 150 recent cases of D.C.M. Most of the dogs had been on grain-free diets. Steven L. Rosenthal, a partner, noted that they could not rule out other influences, but said that the group now sees eight to 12 new D.C.M. cases a month that are not associated with genetics.
The F.D.A. has recently received reports of some two dozen additional cases. Three dogs died.
“We don’t want to be alarmist,” Dr. Hartogensis said. “But,” she added, “this is a real signal.”
Researchers do not know why these diets may be problematic — whether it’s the absence of grains, the presence of legumes or something else.
But Lisa Freeman, a veterinary nutritionist and researcher with the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, sees this moment as an opportunity to view grain-free diets skeptically. “Contrary to advertising and popular belief, there is no research to demonstrate that grain-free diets offer any health benefits over diets that contain grains,” she said.
Grains are an important source of protein and other nutrients in many meat-based pet foods, she continued. “Grains have not been linked to any health problems except in the very rare situation when a pet has an allergy to a specific grain.”
Grain-free canine diets began to gain traction in the wake of the 2007 recalls of pet foods contaminated with melamine from China, industry analysts said. By 2011, grain-free dog food accounted for 15 percent of sales in American pet specialty stores or, nearly $1 billion. By the end of 2017, it had exploded to 44 percent of the market, or nearly $2.8 billion in sales, and continues to grow, said Maria Lange, an analyst on the pet specialty industry for GfK, the global market research firm.“Most pets are seen as fur babies,” she said, “so owners say, ‘Maybe my dog is allergic to grains, so just to be safe, I’ll feed him grain-free.’ But in some ways it’s a marketing ploy to catch the consumer’s eye.”
Bentley, a broad-shouldered, 95-pound golden retriever, had been wolfing down his grain-free pork and squash for years, for which his owners, Tracy and Chris Meyer of Phoenix, Md., paid about $80 a month.
“You look at the ingredients: peas, red lentils, green lentils,” Mrs. Meyer said. “They were near the top of the list. It looked like something I would eat, so I thought it would be all right.”
When Bentley started backing off his food, she thought it was because they had just moved to a new house. She switched flavors, added treats.
“Whether I was up at 5 a.m. or 8 a.m., he was already awake at the bottom of the bed, panting,” Mrs. Meyer recalled. “He started a honking cough. Then his stomach became distended. I took him out one time before going to the vet’s and he just stopped, had a bowel movement, and fainted, foaming at the mouth.”
The Meyers with Bentley, who is mostly back to normal after a year and a half, though he must take supplements and two heart drugs.CreditAndrew Mangum for The New York TimesAt the veterinary emergency room, she was told that Bentley had gone into heart failure. Dr. Rosenthal was on duty. He ran Bentley’s levels of taurine, an amino acid essential to a healthy heart that dogs can make on their own. A normal taurine level is over 200. Bentley’s was 58.
A year and a half later, Bentley is back to his happy-go-lucky, goofy self. He has come off a heart medication that can affect kidney function. His appointments have been pared back. He still takes supplements and two other heart drugs. His new diet has plenty of grains.
Dr. Adin noted that some dogs have improved with diet change, medication and taurine supplements. Unlike D.C.M. in dogs with a genetic predisposition, she said, D.C.M. in diet-associated cases can sometimes even be reversed.
The F.D.A. said research has just begun on these uncharacteristic cases of D.C.M. One group, cocker spaniels and golden retrievers, do reveal low taurine levels. Investigators speculate that legumes may interfere with the dog’s ability to make taurine or perhaps absorb it. Joshua Stern, a veterinary cardiologist at the University of California, Davis, is tracking 24 golden retrievers with low taurine levels who had been on grain-free diets.
But taurine levels in other affected dogs, including mixed breeds, are normal, which puzzles researchers. The F.D.A. requested that owners and veterinarians take blood and urine samples from affected dogs for comparative analysis.
For now, the pet food industry is holding its breath. Dana Brooks, chief executive of the Pet Food Institute, which represents most pet food manufacturers, said in an emailed statement: “While the exact cause of the reported illnesses has not yet been identified, P.F.I. shares the belief that any pet illness should be taken seriously, and we remind pet owners to consult their trusted veterinarians with any questions about their pet’s health and well-being.”
Some veterinary experts recommend that owners with dogs on such diets review the reasons for doing so with their veterinarians. Dr. Freeman also suggested that owners watch for early signs of heart disease, including weakness and fainting.
“I know that owners want the very best for their pets, but instead of avoiding grains based on myth,” she said. “I recommend selecting a pet food that contains high-quality ingredients, is made by a manufacturer with strong nutritional expertise and rigorous quality control, and has the right nutritional profile for the individual pet.”
Both Dr. Rosenthal and Dr. Adin suggested that owners also peruse recommendations by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. It does not have regulatory authority, but does promulgate widely recognized standards.
Dr. Adin also said that owners might move away from exotic proteins like alligator and kangaroo, whose benefits, compared to tried-and-true chicken and beef, have not been scrupulously evaluated.
Dr. Rosenthal feeds his own American bulldog, Eddie, a diet from a mainstream commercial pet food maker that includes grains.
“A lot of people would have qualms because it uses less expensive or non-organic ingredients,” he said. “But we’ve seen dogs thrive on these diets.”
5 Reasons Dogs and Fireworks Don’t Always Get Along—and What to Do About It
For many dogs, the fireworks that accompany some holidays can make these celebrations a nightmare. But exactly why are dogs scared of fireworks? We’ve put together five fireworks “fear factors,” as well as ways you can help your petrified pooch stay calm during the festivities.
1. Fireworks Are Loud!
Most fireworks make some kind of loud sound. It’s one of the reasons we love them! These sounds naturally startle dogs, however, especially since they have a more acute sense of hearing than humans.
What you can do about it. For those with dogs-and-fireworks issues, keep your dog indoors away from the noise, ideally in a room where you can turn on music or white noise to drown out those startling sounds.
2. Fireworks Come Without Warning.
Other things that scare dogs come with warnings (think thunderstorms or trips to the vet). But from a dog’s perspective, fireworks disrupt an otherwise enjoyable evening with loud and random pops, bangs and screeches—and without warning! So rather than ask, “Why are dogs scared of fireworks?” maybe the real question is, why wouldn’t dogs be startled by them?
What you can do about it. You can help prepare your dog by exposing him to recorded firework sounds. The only downside is that you’ll need to start months in advance and, over time, gradually increase the volume while rewarding your dog for keeping calm.
3. Fireworks Present a Threat.
Because fireworks are loud and unexpected, many dogs perceive them as a real threat, which triggers their “flight” response. They may even show signs of anxiety and restlessness, like panting, whining and pacing.
What you can do about it. A calming, comforting presence can make all the difference for our dogs. Stay close and make sure you’re putting off positive, relaxed energy. After all, getting upset or anxious won’t help our dogs, and fireworks aren’t a real threat to them anyway.
4. The Dog Feels Trapped.
Related to the previous reason, if fireworks have triggered a dog’s flight response but he can’t escape the threat, his fear and anxiety will continue—at least as long as the fireworks continue.
What to do about it. The best solution is to remove your dog from the situation ahead of time. If you have friends or family who live in areas that are familiar to your dog —and where fireworks are rare—let him spend his Fourth there.
5. The Dog Feels Vulnerable.
Again, if your dog senses that fireworks are a threat to his safety and doesn’t have an escape route, he will naturally feel vulnerable. At the end of the day, this is probably the simplest answer to the question, "Why dogs are afraid of fireworks?"
What you can do about it. If you can’t remove your dog from the firework festivities in advance (see #4), there are a few other tactics to help him stay calm:
You need to go out-of town for business, vacation, wedding or family reunion. Is your biggest concern the travel plans or what to do with the dog and cat? Will she do better in a run next to other animals and daily playtime? What about at night when no one is around? Or is he too fearful and socially unpredictable in a foreign environment and would be better off at home? Boarding or pet sitting, which is the least stressful for all concerned?
Traditionally, boarding has been the most popular solution for pet owners needing to leave their pets. Fortunately, cold concrete and steel runs or steel or plastic cages with no common social space and a rather depressing environment are no longer the norm. Pet hotels with all sorts of amenities are now more common.
Fido can now luxuriate on a doggie cot in a plexi-glass elevated run and watch DogTV. He can enjoy the pool at day camp or have one-on-one play dates or even get a massage during the day. Mimi can enjoy laser or catnip bubble playtime and then retire to her suite with multilevel plush perches complete with a closed circuit fish tank screen and bird chirps providing a peaceful background. Shuttle service to and from the boarding facility can make boarding arrangements even easier.
An even newer boarding concept has individuals entertaining dogs in their homes instead of at a boarding facility. Often those offering this option have dogs of their own so it adds a canine social element while providing a more “homey” boarding environment. Such arrangements for cats are more problematic and less available.
Pricing for these boarding alternatives vary tremendously depending on the amenities and level of service chosen. These add-ons can really run up the fees. The more personal attention given to your pet tends to reduce the stress of a new environment and strange human companions, so this added expense becomes compelling.
Many pet owners prefer boarding at a veterinary facility so that their pets have access to veterinary care. Although this seems like a great idea, most veterinary boarding facilities are the old fashioned, cold, sterile type. Because medical and surgical cases are a higher priority in veterinary hospitals, boarders are likely to be short changed on attention and care. Having worked in over 20 different veterinary hospitals in my career, I can honestly say that the boarding care I have witnessed at veterinary hospitals is typically inferior to non-veterinary facilities.
Stress is indeed the biggest problem with boarding of any sort. Pets, especially cats, are uncomfortable outside of their normal environment. Often this stress results in vomiting and diarrhea, often bloody, for the majority or entirety of the stay. Fear and timidity may reduce appetites and often pets will lose weight when boarded. And of course there is always the risk of injury due to self-trauma or altercations with other boarders during social time.
Pet sitting is generally of two types: Pet sitters that come to the house at specified times to feed, allow bodily elimination, and exercise the pet are the most common. Other pet sitters will not only care for the pets but can live at the pet owner’s house so pets have constant companions, or at least night companions.
Pricing for these services are also variable but tend to be priced at basic boarding levels with few pet sitters charging for amenities. Because the pets are in their own comfortable space many of these amenities are unnecessary for stress relief. Feeding a live-in sitter can add to the total bill, but is generally cheaper than add-ons at boarding facilities.
Pets can also show signs of stress when their owners are away but it tends to be less severe when they are in the familiar surroundings of their own homes. In 30 years I have yet to treat stress induced bloody colitis in a pet that has been cared for by a sitter.
Having sitters also has the advantage of protecting the pet owner’s home. Newspaper and mail collection by the pet sitters eliminate "away from home" signals to possible “bad guys.” Live-in sitters create near normal household activity that also discourages potential robberies.
Live-in sitters can also take phone messages and care for indoor and outdoor plants without adding significantly to costs. Live-in sitters are more likely to recognize potential health problems sooner and can arrange for the pets to be seen by a veterinarian. My experience is that pets with live-in sitters tend to be less subject to separation stress.
So, Which is Better - Boarding or Sitting?
To me the obvious choice is live-in pet sitting. It is as close to a normal environment for the pets as possible and is also great insurance against crime. It is my personal choice for my pets.
What is your choice?
Dr. Ken Tudor
Crate training takes advantage of your dog's natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog's den is their home—a place to sleep, hide from danger and raise a family. The crate becomes your dog's den, where they can find comfort and solitude while you know they’re safe and secure (and not shredding your house while you're out running errands).
Crating cautionA crate is not a magical solution to common canine behavior. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated.
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Crate selectionSeveral types of crates are available:
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Your dog's crate should be just large enough for them to stand up and turn around in. If your dog is still growing, choose a crate size that will accommodate their adult size. Block off the excess crate space so your dog can't eliminate at one end and retreat to the other. Your local animal shelter may rent out crates. By renting, you can trade up to the appropriate size for your puppy until they reach adult size, when you can invest in a permanent crate.
The training processCrate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast.
Step 1: Introduce your dog to the cratePlace the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them:
Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at nightPut your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation.
Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
Find more dog care and behavior tip sheets »
Potential problemsWhining. If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse.
If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.
Separation anxiety. Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures. You may want to consult a professional animal-behavior specialist for help. See more about separation anxiety below.
I welcome your comments and opinions.