Volume I, Issue V

November 2005


        Thinking of Cats and Dogs During Cold Weather

        Canine Influenza (Reader Requested)

        The Dangers of Off-Label Feeding (Goats, Horses, Sheep, Cows) (Reader Requested)



Thinking of Cats and Dogs During Cold Weather



As winter intensifies, safety concerns for cats and dogs change.  Below you will find a number of tips for helping pets during the coldest months.


Check under the hood: Cold cats like to sleep under the hoods of warm cars.  Consider banging the hood of your car loudly before starting the engine.  This can give cats a chance to escape.

Effective Dog and Cat Houses: Sheds usually make poor doghouses.  Dog size doghouses help contain the dog’s body heat.  The high roof of a shed lets the heat get too far away from the dog.  Where heat and comfort are concerned, the best doghouse is sized closely to the dog, has a flap on the door, and has bedding.  Various retail outlets sell safe and effective electric heating blankets designed for outdoor dog and cat houses. Cats will use houses too if they are provided.

For indoor dogs, restrict outdoor time.

Increase food portions: Maintaining body heat in cold weather requires additional energy.  This creates an increased appetite.  However, if your pet is already chubby or if your pet spends little time outside, there is no reason to feed more.

Sweaters are good for small and short hair dogs.

Increased need for paw care: Walking in a winter wonderland can leave salt and deicer products on a pet’s paws.  They can make paws sensitive and worse yet, dogs and cats will lick and ingest these chemicals to get them off their skin.  Check and clean paws frequently if your pet is exposed to salts or other chemicals on the ground. 

Garage dogs: Some people let outdoor dogs stay in the garage during the coldest months.  If this is you, do not warm up your car in the garage.  The carbon monoxide created by an idling car will be bad for a pet’s health, if not fatal.

Dogs get lost easier: The ASPCA reports that more dogs get lost in the winter than in any other season.  Snow and ice can cause dogs to loose their scent and reduce their ability to find their way home.  When snow or ice is on the ground, keep ID’s on your dog and consider keeping the far roaming dog closer to home.



Canine Influenza


You may have heard recent reports about a new virus infecting and even killing dogs.  Doctors at the University of Florida believe that a strain of equine influenza recently mutated to a strain that can infect dogs. 

New Strains of Canine Influenza do not pose exceptional threat to healthy dogs.


The strain seems to have started in racing dogs in Florida.  It is spreading rapidly throughout the nation.  Various reports have stated that dogs have “no immunity” to this virus.  Because it is a new virus, this is technically true.  However, “no immunity” does not mean that a healthy dog cannot fight the virus.  It simply means that most dogs exposed to the virus will get sick, fight it off, and then develop immunity. 


The CDC reports a 5% to 8% fatality rate connected with the new canine influenza virus.  This is considered low.  The dogs affected most by the virus already had a reduced health status due to age or disease and many did not seek veterinary care in a timely fashion.


The virus incubates for 2 to 5 days – meaning it spreads in the body before causing symptoms.  The infection lasts 2 to 4 weeks.  Infected dogs will shed the virus through body secretions, even if they do not show symptoms.  Dogs do not need to have direct contact with each other to spread the virus.  Saliva or mucus left on a surface can spread the virus to the next dog passing by.  While there is no evidence that the canine influenza virus can affect humans, humans can carry the virus from one dog to another.  If you have been in contact with a sick dog, wash your hands and consider changing clothes before coming into contact with another dog.


A dog’s experience of canine influenza is much like the human flu experience.  They have fever, listlessness, coughing, a snotty nose and body aches.  A small percentage of dogs develop pneumonia.


For now, the best advice is to not ignore a coughing dog.  If your dog develops a cough, make an appointment at Healing Springs Animal Hospital.  Depending on your dog’s particular situation, various supportive therapies can help your dog fight off the infection.  Keep your dog well vaccinated.  There is not currently a vaccine for canine influenza.  However, infected dogs become more susceptible to other diseases.  Vaccination helps dogs fight off these other diseases while they are compromised by the canine flu.  Do not allow your dog to socialize with coughing dogs.  Keep your dog well nourished with a quality dog food and reduce your dog’s exposure to extreme cold. 




The Dangers of Off-Label Feeding



As popular companion animals, horses and goats often graze the same pastures.  Since goats prefer to browse high and horses prefer to graze low, the two make good co-grazers.  Where a horse is kept alone, a goat can even make a good companion for the fellow herd animal.  However, keeping multiple species of grazers and browsers in the same field and same barn can create some nutritional challenges. 


First and most important is to keep animals out of feed that was not designed for them.  For optimal animal health, do not attempt to design a single feed or supplement for multiple species.  The extremely complicated topic of copper consumption serves as good example for why you should feed each animal a specific feed.  Copper is required for the metabolism of iron, healthy enzyme systems, hair development, good hair color, bone development, reproduction, and lactation.  Copper deficiency is common in goats and is believed to lead to many incorrectly diagnosed goat deaths.  Sheep, on the other hand, are more prone to copper toxicity from consuming too much copper.  It was long believed that since sheep and goats were both small ruminants that they would share the low tolerance for copper.  The latest research on the subject suggests that goats can tolerate and indeed require much more copper than sheep.  In fact, the latest suggestions are that goats on feed appropriate for sheep receive a copper supplement.  Unfortunately, there seems to be inadequate research to suggest that the copper intake that is good for a horse will be good for a goat.  Considering the fatal effects that moderate copper levels (25ppm of total diet) can have on sheep and the similarities between sheep and goats, most recommendations for goats still suggest cautiously controlling a goat’s copper intake.  Bear in mind that the bioavailability of the copper source in a particular feed or supplement, the balance of other nutrients such as iron, and the forage available all affect the copper levels and the potential for copper toxicity.  Copper toxicity can take years to kill a small ruminant.  The advantage of labeled feeds and supplements is that there is a very low likelihood that they will kill the animal for which they were designed.  The feeds were tested on the specific types of animals named on the bag.  The farms that test issues such as copper level routinely test the forage on the pasture and routinely draw blood from the test subjects.  Tests on goats and sheep are often done on the livers of animals slaughtered for meat.  Do you really want to test a particular horse supplement on your pet goat and discover that it was not appropriate?  Let the feed producers do the testing.  When they develop a feed safe for multiple species, they will label it as such.


Feeds contain other hidden dangers.  For instance, some goat and some cattle feeds are medicated with Monensin.  Monensin can be fatal when consumed by horses.  Some cattle feeds contain urea, a cheap source of protein.  Urea can be fatal when consumed by goats.  The best advice is to not take chances with animals that you care about or animals that have economic value.  Feed and supplements are only tested on the animals for which they are labeled.  Feeding off-label may not only create health problems, it may slowly cause death.  Generally, PhD nutritionists are responsible for instructions on your feedbags.  Heeding the commercial labels is the best bet for protecting the health of your companion animals.



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