Dogs Vomiting: How to Make a Dog Vomit

Up next in our “How to” series, inducing emesis in dogs, or in laymen’s terms, making a dog vomit.

Dogs are scavengers and have the maddening tendency to find and eat the things in their environments that are destined to make them the most sick. Human medications, pet medications, insecticides, cleaning products, fertilizer, weed killer, poisonous plants, pesticides, potentially toxic human foods (e.g., chocolate, grapes/raisings, xylitol) … you name it and a dog has probably eaten it.

In some cases, the first line of treatment is to get the offending substance out of the dog before it can cause too much damage. I say “some cases” because there are other times when inducing emesis is useless or potentially catastrophic. For example, dogs are typically only able bring up an offending substance within two hours or so of ingestion, and when a dog is not fully alert or when it has ingested a caustic or petroleum-based substance, vomiting will make the situation worse rather than better.

Therefore, owners should never attempt to make their dogs vomit without first consulting with a veterinarian. If a local veterinarian is not immediately available, call the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680). Both hotlines are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are available to owners at a small charge.

Supplies Needed

    • Telephone
    • 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, available at any drug store or supermarket
    • A large syringe (no needle) or turkey baster
    • Measuring teaspoon
  • Latex or rubber gloves, paper towels, water, cleaning solution, and plastic bags

Steps to Follow

    • Call your veterinarian or pet poison control center/hotline. Have as much of the following information ready as possible: your dog’s approximate weight, any health problems the dog suffers from, what he may have eaten, when he may have eaten it, and the amount potentially involved. If you are instructed to induce emesis at home, proceed. Otherwise follow the directions given to you by the veterinarian you have spoken with.
    • If the dog has not eaten within the last two hours, offer him a small meal. This makes it more likely that the dog will vomit but is not essential if the dog is uninterested in food.
    • Measure 1 milliliter (ml) of 3% hydrogen peroxide per pound of dog weight, using either the syringe or teaspoon. One teaspoon is approximately five ml. The maximum amount of hydrogen peroxide to be given at any one time is 45 ml, even if a dog weighs over 45 pounds.
    • Squirt the hydrogen peroxide into the back of the dog’s mouth using the syringe or turkey baster.
    • If vomiting has not occurred within 15 minutes or so, give one more dose of hydrogen peroxide measured out as described above. If vomiting still does not occur, call your veterinarian or the pet poison control center/hotline back for instructions.
    • Once vomiting has occurred, collect a sample in a leak-proof container to bring to your veterinarian’s office for identification if you are unsure of exactly what your dog may have eaten.
    • Thoroughly clean up the vomit. Wear latex or rubber gloves while handling vomit, particularly if it potentially contains a material that is hazardous to human health.
  • Unless instructed otherwise by your veterinarian or the pet poison control center/hotline, take the dog to a veterinary clinic immediately for evaluation and continued treatment.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

The Risks and Benefits of Raw Meat Diet for Dogs


We love our dogs and want to provide them with the most nutritious food possible, but deciding which food is best is not easy. Pet food industry marketing often complicates the issue and presents conflicting viewpoints. One type of diet that is becoming increasingly popular, the raw meat-based diet, is also one of the most polarizing topics in veterinary nutrition.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Associationreviews the potential risks and benefits of raw meat-based diets. One of the main points put forth in the article is that there are strong opinions on each side of the argument but little scientific data supporting either side.

Advocates cite the following reasons for why feeding a raw meat-based diet is beneficial:
    1. Better palatability (taste)
    1. Cleaner teeth and less odor to the mouth, body and feces
    1. A shinier haircoat and healthier skin
    1. Improved immunity, behavior and energy
    1. A more natural diet, resembling what a dog in the wild would eat
    1. Avoids the harmful effects caused by processing and the inclusion of by-products or chemically synthesized additives and preservatives, which might increase the risk of some cancers
    1. Avoids the potential contaminants that commercial dog foods may contain (e.g., the 2007 recall due to melamine)
  1. Reduced poop production and improved colonic health (extrapolated from human studies)
Opponents of raw diets point to the following:
    1. Increased health risks to humans from handling raw meat and everything it touches as well as from exposure to increased numbers of bacteria in the dog’s feces
    1. Increased health risks to the dog and other pets in the household
  1. A high incidence of nutritional imbalances

Several professional veterinary organizations recommend against feeding raw meat-based diets, including the American Animal Hospital Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. The Delta Society’s Pet Partners Program excludes animals eating a raw meat-based diet from participating in their therapy animal programs. These organizations cite the risks to the pet, other animals, and humans as the basis for their decision.

Studies show that Salmonella is found in one-fourth to one-half of raw meat-based diets, with a high number of resistant isolates being found. This means many of the antibiotics commonly used to treat infections caused by these bacteria will not work. Salmonella can be found in commercial diets also, but the risk is much lower. Dogs and cats can become ill due to Salmonella, but the greatest risk is to the humans in the household. Many other types of bacteria are also found in raw diets. If bones are included, fractured teeth, penetration of the digestive tract, and gastrointestinal impaction are all possible as well.

Many raw meat-based diets have nutritional imbalances which can be harmful to the dog. One study evaluated 200 recipes for healthy dogs and found that 95 percent of the recipes had at least one essential nutrient below the recommended minimum amount. Many had multiple imbalances. Because it is very difficult to formulate a nutritionally-balanced home-prepared diet, a veterinary nutritionist should always be consulted first.

Further research is needed to substantiate the risks and benefits of raw diets. Each individual animal and the characteristics of the household should be evaluated (with input from a veterinarian) before deciding which diet is best.                  Dr. Jennifer Coates

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


Effects of Marijuana on Dogs and Cats: A Risky Combination


Marijuana exposure in pets, as reported to the ASPCA’s Poison Control Hotline, is becoming more frequent. Since 2009, calls reporting marijuana exposure have steadily risen by 50 percent. It is unknown if there truly is an increase in the number of animals who are exposed to the substance or if instead, with the recent legalization of marijuana for medical use in many states, people are just becoming more likely to admit that it has happened. Most reported cases in pets are due to the ingestion of marijuana plant materials or edibles, such as brownies and cookies, containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Sedation or Agitation

The most common side effects of marijuana intoxication are “drunkenness” (with pets appearing impaired and uncoordinated), sedation and urinary incontinence. THC and other cannabinoids affect the central nervous system, causing disruption of normal movement and behavior. However, about 25 percent of pets who ingest THC become stimulated instead — with agitation, vocalization and high heart rates as possible side effects. The most severely affected animals are typically the ones who have consumed marijuana edibles. These products can have very high levels of THC. There have even been some dog deaths reported after eating cookies or brownies made with marijuana butter because pets, unlike humans, think nothing of opportunistically wolfing down an entire pan of edibles.

While dogs are the most common pets to ingest marijuana, cats will eat the plant material. Because of their apparent lack of a sweet tooth, however, they are less likely to consume the more tempting edibles. After ingestion, pets can become affected in minutes to hours, and signs can last for hours.

If your pet is unable to walk or cannot be roused after being suspected of ingesting marijuana, contact your veterinarian immediately. Please be aware that veterinarians are not required to contact the police, even in states where marijuana is illegal. It is most important that your pet gets medical assistance. Affected animals should have their heart rate and blood pressure monitored. Treatment for marijuana intoxication can include confinement to prevent injury, intravenous fluids to keep the blood pressure normal and medications to lower the heart rate. Severely affected animals may benefit from intravenous lipid emulsions to help decrease the amount of circulating cannabinoids in the pet’s system.

A Pet Pain Reliever?

Given marijuana’s usage in humans for problems such as chronic pain, especially back pain, some people have logically asked, “What about using marijuana as a pain control option for my pets?” At this point, more research is needed in this area to provide an answer. There is no known appropriate dose for pets, and the raw plant material has variable amounts of cannabinoids in it. If you are concerned about your pet’s comfort level, speak with your veterinarian and use one of the many available medications, such as opioids, gabapentin or NSAIDs, that have been shown to be safe and effective for managing pain in animals.

Finally, as with any potentially toxic substance, always keep marijuana and marijuana-laced food items out of the reach of pets and children. While the trend toward legalization in many states may make marijuana more available in many homes, remember that it remains a highly toxic substance for pets.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Healthy Treats for Dogs and Cats


Are you overfeeding your pet — or feeding the wrong things? Pet obesity is a growing problem. Here’s how to reduce it in your home.

We love our pets. And when they look at us from those big, round, eyes that radiate the love back, or when they’re well behaved, we want to reward them for the joy they add to our life. That reward often comes in the form of a treat.

But are we rewarding our pets too much and too often? Are they being overfed and under exercised? A recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, which found about half of all dogs and cats in American homes to be overweight or obese, would indicate yes. You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs. If you can’t it, you should consult with your veterinarian for a professional assessment and weight loss plan. Even just one extra pound can cause or exacerbate medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, orthopedic problems, and even lead to a shortened life.

Cats in the Kitchen

The average cat weighs between 6 and 20 pounds, depending on breed and sex. As adults, they require 20-to-30 calories per pound of body weight a day. So a 10-pound cat needs 200-300 calories daily to stay within a healthy weight.

There’s nothing wrong with giving your cat a treat, but the portion size should be small. Veterinarians advise feeding a cat no more than 10 percent of their daily nutrition from treats. If you can’t resist indulging kitty with more, make sure that you reduce the amount of regular food get.

Home cooks can easily prepare fresh liver, fish, and egg treats for cats and a variety of commercial cat treats is available in supermarkets, pet stores, and online. One popular pet care website offers catnip and cat grass, chicken and bonito slices so thin they can dissolve on the tongue, tiny flavored rice treats, and freeze-dried liver snacks.

Since most treats add nothing but calories to a cat’s diet, many pet lovers instead treat their cats with catnip or cat grass, which has negligible nutritional value and can be grown at home.

The Dog Dish

Dogs aren’t as particular as cats in what they like to eat (think of some of the things you’ve caught yours munching on unauthorized!), so a wider range of treats appeals to them.

As with cats, though, treats should make up no more than 10 percent of a dog’s daily nutrition. Know that feeding a dog biscuit is the equivalent of feeding a child a candy bar, so try a smallest-size multigrain, undyed biscuits. And your dog won’t notice if you break one in half to give part now and part later.

Do you like cheese and crackers? Careful about tossing some to your pet. One ounce of cheese to you is like a Big Mac to a 50-pound dog! For canines that are above their ideal weight, choose chew toys and rawhides rather than caloric treats.

If you wonder how many calories are in your pet’s food and treats, read the label. You can find major brand-name goodies for dogs and cats listed at If yours isn’t listed, contact the manufacturer. And keep in mind that time spent playing with your cat or taking your dog for an extra long walk is the treat they treasure most.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


Studying Canine Degenerative Myelopathy Helps Us Understand ALS

Baseball’s pitchers and catchers reported for spring training in February, and the American love affair with our national pastime began anew this spring.

But a new season brings a time for reflection on seasons past, and for many, that conjures up memories of some of the game’s most iconic players. Lou Gehrig is considered one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, but his name is more frequently linked to one of its saddest chapters: Gehrig’s brilliant career was tragically cut short by the debilitating neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Now, thanks to creative researchers and pet dogs, scientists are studying a genetically related canine disease, degenerative myelopathy (DM), to help advance medical knowledge and pioneer treatments for both disorders.

Sidelined by Disease

The basis for the study of canine degenerative myelopathy as a model for human ALS research began 14,000 years ago with the domestication of the dog. Fast-forward to Victorian times when selective breeding created the modern breeds we know today. Each of these “purebreds” was developed for a specific function: herding sheep, retrieving game or controlling vermin. While selective breeding practices propagated desirable traits such as intelligence, tenacity and waterproof coats, “bad” genes predisposing dogs to disease tagged along with the good ones, leading to some of the breed-linked diseases that we see and study today.

Veterinarians initially believed degenerative myelopathy was a disease limited to the German Shepherd breed and that it only affected the hind limbs. Additional research, however, has shown that this disease also affects such diverse breeds as the sturdy Boxer, the low-slung Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the fearless Rhodesian Ridgeback and the waterproof Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Everyone has probably seen a dog affected by degenerative myelopathy in the dog park or on the street. Dogs with DM drag their back paws and wobble in the hind end but are otherwise pain free and enjoy playtime with their human companions.

As with ALS, a diagnosis of DM is heartbreaking for the patient’s family. Degenerative myelopathy strikes dogs in the prime of life and progresses rapidly. Most dogs become paraplegic within a year of onset of clinical signs. Small dogs who are more easily cared for after they lose hind limb function will continue to deteriorate until, similar to ALS patients, they become quadriplegic. Relentless progression of the disease robs dogs of the ability to control their bowels and bladder and, in severely affected dogs, the ability to swallow or bark.

A Genetic Curveball

In 2004, the final piece of the puzzle that helped sniff out the root cause of degenerative myelopathy fell into place with the sequencing of the canine genome.

Coupled with extensive canine family trees maintained by purebred dog enthusiasts such as the American Kennel Club, the canine genome can now be analyzed for clues to the cause of — and potential new treatments for — degenerative myelopathy and related disorders like ALS.

One of the recent big wins for biomedical research was the identification of a genetic mutation associated with degenerative myelopathy in dogs. Veterinarians at the University of Missouri knew degenerative myelopathy ran in the Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed, and their early investigations focused on a potential genetic cause. They assembled a team of multidisciplinary researchers from their own institution as well as Columbia University, Uppsala University in Sweden and The Broad Institute at MIT.

In 2009, this team identified a genetic mutation in the Corgis in the same gene that physicians knew was important in inherited forms of ALS in humans. In dogs, a one-molecule swap in the genetic code for superoxide dismutase one (SOD-1) changed the structure of a protein found in the nervous system. This tiny error is a game changer and places dogs with the defect in a high-risk group for the development of degenerative myelopathy.

Studying the Stats

Shortly after discovery of the mutated SOD-1 gene in Pembroke Welsh Corgis, a genetic test for the mutation was developed. For the first time, veterinarians treating dogs with neurologic diseases could determine which of their canine patients were at high risk for developing degenerative myelopathy, and they could use that information to form their diagnostic and therapeutic plans. The test can also help identify dogs likely to develop clinical signs of DM, allowing breeders to carefully choose animals for breeding programs.

The test for the degenerative myelopathy gene can be performed on a blood sample obtained in a veterinarian’s office or on cheek cells collected by the owner on a swab. Information published as an Early View online open-access article in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine reports on the use of this test in nearly 35,000 dogs. More than 120 different breeds and mixed breed dogs were found to have the exact same genetic error found in the Pembroke Welsh Corgis in the Missouri-led study.

Dr. Joan Coates, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (neurology specialty), professor of veterinary medicine at Missouri University and a member of the research team involved in the groundbreaking study, says, “The widespread distribution of the SOD-1 gene mutation throughout the pet dog population means veterinarians and dog owners alike cannot have tunnel vision when working with dogs suspected to have degenerative myelopathy.” There are most likely breed differences for susceptibility of this risk factor.

Dr. Coates further points out, “Since the mutation test evaluates for a risk factor, many dogs will have a positive test for the degenerative myelopathy gene but not necessarily have the disease. In its early stages, degenerative myelopathy and, for that matter, ALS can look like a slipped disk, a disease which is far more common in the dog than degenerative myelopathy.” Dr. Coates recommends consultation with a board-certified veterinary neurologist in order to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

Early diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy is imperative as the implications of the disease are dire. The dog could also have a different but treatable disease.

Dogs as Disease MVPs

Dogs with degenerative myelopathy are quickly becoming the leadoff “batters” on the clinical trials team. Using canine DM patients in studies can allow for an evaluation of investigational therapies in a naturally occurring model of ALS and ultimately lead to initiation of human clinical trials. Backed by funding from the National Institutes of Health and the ALS Association, investigations into drug therapy for dogs with DM are now in early phases. The drugs, currently undergoing safety testing prior to full-scale evaluation in pet dogs with degenerative myelopathy, block production of the abnormal protein in the nervous system that leads to this disease.

The advanced neurologic system of dogs combined with their high cognitive ability and similar home environment better mimics the human condition. Knowledge gained from upcoming studies for the treatment of degenerative myelopathy in dogs will hopefully also lead to more effective treatment of ALS in humans.

In short, man’s best friend is on base and looking to score the winning run in a scientific competition where dogs and humans will both be winners.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Five Life-Lengthening Dog Health Tips and Cat Health Care Tips

How to Add Years to Your Pet’s Life


By Lorie Huston, DVM

Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat wishes just one thing — that he or she has a healthy and long life. Here are five tips that can help your pet do just that.

1. Feed a high quality diet.

Pets fed a high quality diet have a shiny hair coat, healthy skin, and bright eyes. A good diet can help strengthen your pet’s immune system, help maintain his or her intestinal health, help increase his or her mental acuity, help keep joints and muscles healthy, and much more.

Read: 4 Reasons Life Stage Diets Will Help Improve Your Cat’s Health

Read: The Importance of Life Stage Feeding

2. Keep your pet lean.

Pets that are overweight are at risk for a myriad of health issues. Obesity is the number one nutritional disease seen in pets currently and studies have shown that being overweight or obese can shorten a dog or cat’s life span by as much as two years. Why? Being overweight or obese puts your pet at risk for joint disease, heart disease and diabetes, among other things.

Read: How Obesity May Shorten Your Pet’s Lifespan

3. Take your pet to the veterinarian regularly.

All pets, including both dogs and cats, require regular veterinary care. However, veterinary care goes far beyond routine vaccinations, even though those are important. A routine examination by your veterinarian can uncover health issues of which you are unaware. In many cases, an early diagnosis improves the chances of successful treatment. Early diagnosis is also likely to be less costly for you than waiting until your pet’s illness has become advanced and serious before attempting treatment.

Read: The Importance of Veterinarians for Cats

Read: The Physical Exam: What to Expect at the Veterinarian’s Office

4. Keep your pet’s mouth clean.

A common problem among dogs and cats, dental disease and oral health issues can cause your pet pain, making it difficult for him or her to eat. If left untreated, oral health issues may even lead to heart and kidney disease. In addition to regular dental checkups, the most effective means of caring for your pet’s mouth at home is to brush his or her teeth at home. If your pet isn’t a big fan of toothbrushes there are other alternatives as well, including dental diets, treats, and toys. Ask your veterinarian for some recommendations.

Read: 10 Tips for Keeping Your Cat’s Teeth Clean

Read: Oral Hygiene and Your Dog’s Health

5. Do not allow your pet to roam unsupervised.

Allowing your dog or cat to roam free may seem like you’re doing your pet a favor. However, pets that roam are susceptible to a number of dangers, including automobile accidents, predation, exposure to contagious diseases, exposure to poisons, and more. Additionally, allowing your pet to roam unsupervised may alienate your neighbors should your pet ever “relieve” him- or herself in their lawn or dig up their garden.

Read: Should I Keep My Cat Indoors?

Read: 10 Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs

Following these tips can go a long ways towards providing a long, healthy and happy life for your pet.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


Is Your Cat Suffering from Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?


Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is most often identified with older dogs. However, cats also can suffer from this condition. In fact, one study indicated that 28 percent of all cats between 11 to 14 years of age exhibited at least one sign of cognitive dysfunction. For cats over 15 years, the incidence increased to 50 percent of all cats.

What Are the Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction in Cats

Cats suffering from cognitive dysfunction may suffer from one or more of the following:

    • Disorientation. Affected cats may get lost, even in their own home. They may stare fixedly at one spot. They may wander aimlessly or get “stuck” because of an inability to navigate around objects in their path.
    • Memory Changes. Cats with cognitive dysfunction may stop using the litter box. They may be unable to recognize familiar people and/or objects.
    • Behavior Changes. Cognitive dysfunction may result in less interest in interacting with people or other pets. Conversely, some cats may become overly dependent instead, seeking constant contact with their owner. Some cats may stop grooming themselves properly and/or become less active. Others may become restless or irritable. Vocalization, especially at night, is not unusual.
  • Changes in the Sleep-Wake Cycle. Cognitive dysfunction may disrupt the cat’s normal sleep patterns. Often, it may seem as though the cycle is reversed, with the cat sleeping more during the day rather than at night. Sleep may be fitful for affected cats.

How Is Cognitive Dysfunction in Cats Diagnosed?

The symptoms of cognitive dysfunction can mimic those of other diseases, many of which are also common in senior cats. For instance, arthritis can cause strange vocalizations in response to pain and arthritic cats are likely to be less active and more irritable. Cats with kidney disease may miss the litter box. Cats with diabetes may exhibit similar symptoms. Cats suffering from hyperthyroidism may vocalize abnormally.

Diagnosing cognitive dysfunction involves ruling out the other diseases that can cause the same symptoms. This may mean blood and urine testing for your cat. Radiographs (X-rays) of your cat’s joints may be necessary to rule out arthritis. Naturally, your veterinarian will need to do a thorough physical examination.

Is Cognitive Dysfunction in Cats Treatable?

There is no cure for cognitive dysfunction. However, there are some things that you can do to ease your cat’s symptoms.

    • If possible, avoid changes in routine that may stress your cat. Try to keep to a routine schedule and leave your cat’s surroundings unchanged.
    • Environmental enrichment can be helpful for stimulating the brain of cats with cognitive dysfunction. Interactive play and puzzle-type toys can be beneficial.
    • Make your cat’s environment easy to navigate. Provide ramps if stairs are difficult. Provide low-sided litter boxes in easily accessible locations.
    • Supplementing the diet with Vitamins E and C and antioxidants such as beta carotene, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, flavonoids and carotenoids may be helpful. In addition, l-carnitine and essential fatty acids may also provide some benefit. SAMe may be useful for some cats as well. Your veterinarian will be able to help you choose an appropriate supplement for your cat, if necessary.
  • Drugs such as selegiline are sometimes used to treat cognitive function also. Your veterinarian will help you decide whether your cat is a candidate.

Have you lived with a cat that suffered from cognitive dysfunction? What did you do to help your cat?                      Dr. Lorie Huston

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


How Dog Food Can Make You Sick

Recently the American Veterinary Medical Association issued a policy statement discouraging pet owners from feeding raw diets. The American Animal Hospital Association followed with a similar policy statement. Owners of dogs fed raw diets are now excluded from many groups that offer therapy dog visitations to nursing homes and hospitals. And certainly, studies have shown that raw diets do pose a greater risk for bacterial contamination to family members than other pet food sources. This, however, does not imply that commercial dog food is risk free.

Just published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association is an epidemiology study of a Salmonella outbreak in humans exposed to dry, commercial dog food.

The Salmonella Outbreak Case

During routine surveillance of retail dog food, Michigan Department of Agriculture inspectors identified a particular strain of Salmonella in an unopened bag of dog food. The food was traced back to a pet food manufacturing plant in South Carolina that made foods for over 30 brands of pet food. As the 2012 investigation progressed, it was found that 16 brands of dry dog and cat food had been contaminated. The food was shipped to 21 states in the U.S., and to two Canadian provinces.

Fifty-three people were made ill in these locations were infected with the exact strain of Salmonella found in the original bag of dog food. All of the patients had fed their pets the contaminated food. The identical strain of Salmonella was also isolated from the feces (poop) of the dogs belonging to the patients.

Thirty-one cases of illness in dogs were also linked to the dog food during the same period. No illnesses were reported for cats. Fortunately, there were no fatalities, human or animal, associated with the outbreak.

The source of the contamination at the plant was never identified. Samplings of the plant equipment and ingredients were all negative for the bacteria. Oddly, the workers at the plant “were not considered a likely source of contamination” and were not tested.

This case is not unique. Three other studies have documented humanSalmonella outbreaks prior to 2012 which were associated with dry pet food ortreats.

How Is Salmonella Transmitted?

Infection with Salmonella requires ingestion of the bacteria. The routes of infection for those in this study were not identified. Because 38 percent of the victims were children 2 years or younger, infection may have come from direct eating of the food or inadequate washing of the hands after handling the food or food bowls, or from contact with feces from the dogs. Since most dogs are fed in the kitchen, cross contamination to humans could occur when food bowls are washed with human dishes.

A big concern with Salmonella is that dogs can host the bacteria and be disease free. Their saliva and feces can serve as direct sources of contamination. Flies feasting on feces in the yard can contaminate surfaces and food with the bacteria.

How to Avoid Salmonella Contamination?

No one should fear their pet’s food, dry or raw. We just can’t be complacent about how we handle food. Hand sanitation is extremely important. Food utensil sanitation is important. This is too often forgotten, even in the preparation of our own food. Feces in the yard should be disposed of daily in fly resistant containers. Bacteria have been on this planet far longer than us in their original form and they aren’t going away. Common sense can reduce the risk of human outbreaks from bacteria in pet food.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Dieting Tips for Dogs: Cookies Don’t Count If No One Sees You Eat Them


On a daily basis, I see dog and cat patients who are overweight or obese. Research has shown that many pet owners don’t recognize this serious nutritional disorder in their favorite fur person. One of my jobs as a veterinarian is to ensure pets are as healthy as possible and, in the case of a porky Pug or flabby feline, to determine why the pet has packed on those extra pounds.

At a recent conference I attended in my hometown of New York City, veterinarians like me, as well as human health care professionals, were given a fascinating glimpse into the intersection between human and veterinary medicine. The conference, Zoobiquity 3, is based on a New York Times best-seller by the same name that looks at ways to bring veterinarians and physicians together in order to talk about diseases they treat in different species. During the morning’s fascinating presentations, which covered topics including breast cancer, dementia and Lyme disease, a veterinary nutritionist, Dr. Lisa Freeman, and Dr. Evelyn Attia, a physician specialist in eating disorders, discussed the similarities between binge eating in dogs and in humans.

Calories Hidden in Plain Sight

Dr. Freeman’s presentation included an important lesson about food and feeding for all pet owners; she discussed the case of Lucy, a 44-pound Beagle. Yes, you read that right: Lucy weighed twice the expected weight for a member of the long-eared, tri-colored Beagle breed. Lucy’s family knew she was obese, but they couldn’t figure out why. They said they only fed her half a cup of diet dog food twice a day. Where could Lucy’s love handles be coming from, they wondered?

Sleuthing out the sources of extra calories in an obese pet’s diet requires detective-like skills in a veterinary nutritionist. Given the small amount of food Lucy was being fed, it was clear she had more than one source of extra calories in her daily fare. Suspicion immediately fell on what other kinds of goodies Lucy might be scoring. Treats, for example, are notoriously high in calories and very easily handed out to a dog with hopeful brown Beagle eyes and a wagging tail. Treats are not exclusively doled out by family members either, but can also come from a well-meaning delivery man, a bank teller or the nice clerk at the drive-through pharmacy. These were found to be a problem for Lucy.

Other pets in the household can also be a source of additional calories. Some investigation found that for Lucy, the cat’s food was a special delicacy. It turns out that people food — dropped from the high chair or offered as a reward for “giving paw” — added an additional caloric load for our zaftig Beagle. Lucy had a touch of arthritis and twice a day willingly took her medicine — but in a spoonful of calorie-laden peanut butter.

Finally, like some humans with eating disorders, Lucy was a binger. She would periodically consume an entire loaf of bread while her family slept.

All told, Lucy’s daily requirement was about 400 calories per day — but she was routinely consuming in excess of 700 calories. No wonder she was obese! Armed with the information that her veterinarian’s digging sniffed out, Lucy’s family was able to begin cutting back on excess calories and work on getting Lucy back to a healthier weight.

Dr. Freeman offered these tips for successful weight loss in pets:

  1. Identify and eliminate sources of unwanted calories in your pet’s diet.
  2. Recognize not all “diet” pet foods are formulated with equal numbers of calories per cup. Have your veterinarian calculate exactly how much diet food your pet should eat.
  3. A wagging tail and hopeful brown eyes do not equal hunger. Play ball or give a tummy rub in lieu of food.
  4. Increase your pet’s daily exercise — you might lose a pound or two as well.

Pets who have weight issues often have them for the same reason we humans do: They like to binge and snack, too!


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Vet Reveals How to Communicate With Your Dog



Do you understand what your dog is saying? Veterinarian Dr. Gary Weitzman believes the trick to canine communication is customizing your behavior to each individual dog. Weitzman is the president of the San Diego Humane Society and has worked with thousands of stray dogs over the past 25 years, according to the Associated Press.

“Dogs read lips and body language.” Weitzman told the source. “They can see your facial expression. Some animals respond to how we look, not what we say. Their inherent ability to read facial expressions is a whole lot better than ours.”

For example, pet owner Jerry Ericksen has two dogs with different needs. According to the Associated Press, Buster – Ericksen’s 90-pound blind boxer – needs help navigating, which is accomplished by speaking in a clear voice and clapping until Buster can find the source of the noise. On the other hand, Forest is Ericken’s pit bull who was abused by a previous owner. He responds better to a gentle voice.

According to the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dogs reveal how they are feeling through subtle body language cues like the intensity of their gaze and whether the mouth is open or closed. So pay close attention to your canine to understand what it is trying to say.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372