Letters May 2005 Issue

Letters: 05/05

Report all adverse effects
Thank you for alerting owners to facts regarding veterinary drug safety in “The FDA, Drugs, and Your Dog,” (WDJ February 2005). Because of numerous documented canine deaths and serious illnesses secondary to administration of certain drugs, efforts are under way to promote stronger regulatory programs for veterinary drug evaluation, approval, and monitoring.

For these reasons, it is vital that any and all suspected adverse reactions to veterinary drugs be reported to the FDA. Cumulative data over many months may substantiate earlier reports and may also identify formerly undetected problems such as the recently identified link between NSAIDs and heart problems in humans. Reports should be made to FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine at (888) FDA-VETS, and can be filed by owners as well as veterinarians.

Veterinary NSAIDs can provide great relief from pain and discomfort in dogs. However, side effects are not rare, and can include gastrointestinal injury, kidney or liver damage, hematological (blood) changes, neurological effects, and others, including death. At the first sign of changes in appetite, water consumption, or behavior, or of vomiting, diarrhea (with or without blood), weakness, or any other alteration from baseline “normal” for an animal, it is important that owners contact their veterinarian, an emergency facility, or the drug’s manufacturer. Even minor appetite changes can signal rapidly developing gastric ulceration, for example, so quick action is essential. You should be instructed to stop giving the drug until necessary testing and/or treatment is undertaken.

The FDA has directed that the manufacturers of some veterinary drugs, particularly NSAIDs, provide a “Client Information Sheet” (CIS), outlining which animals are appropriate candidates for receiving the drug, side effects to watch for vigilantly, and appropriate steps to take should they occur. Unfortunately, many veterinarians do not provide these to clients when dispensing these drugs, as manufacturers recommend. Clients should ask if a CIS is available when receiving medication for their dogs, and request one if it is.

Dogs cannot tell us how they feel when given a drug, nor do they control whether to take the medicine. For these reasons, dispensing drugs for dogs is similar to dispensing them for children; vets need to fill the role of “pharmacist” by thoroughly instructing owners regarding potential side effects and steps to take if they are observed.

Owners, the only ones present outside the veterinary clinic to observe and report potential problems, need to function as part of the “team” overseeing the care of their animals. To do this, they must be educated about any drug dispensed. This education should come from their vet. If it does not, they need to investigate further on their own.

We all want the same thing for our dogs: comfort, well-being, and safety. This supports the urgent call for heightened regulatory vigilance regarding veterinary drug safety. I also hope to see an increasing “partnership in knowledge” between those who dedicate their professional lives to caring for our beloved animals, and the owners who entrust them to their care.

Kathy Davieds, DVM
Floyd, VA

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Even though I have been a subscriber for many years and a believer in alternative medicine, I took my 14-year-old Lhasa-mix to my veterinarian because he had started limping on his back leg – the same leg that had ACL surgery two years previously.

Up until he started limping, Choo Choo was an active, happy dog who loved walks in the park. My vet prescribed Deramaxx, which I dutifully gave my dog. I attributed his lack of appetite and lethargy to his bad leg and depression. When he had a bout of diarrhea, I didn’t worry because he sometimes had a sensitive stomach. Then one morning, he woke me by coughing and struggling for breath. I rushed him to an emergency clinic where they tried to save him, but my little dog died.

Afterward, I got on the Internet and investigated Deramaxx, and found I wasn’t the only pet owner whose dog died under similar cirumstances. My vet doesn’t hand out medications – a technician does. The medications are sometimes presented in a vial but mostly they are in an envelope. There is no information given on possible side effects or what symptoms to watch for. When I questioned my vet on this, he said if he gave that information out, people wouldn’t give drugs to their pets.

The drug’s manufacturer, Novartis, sent out warning letters to veterinarians regarding prescribing Deramaxx to senior pets. They recommended doing blood tests prior to administering the drug and warning clients of possible side effects. Was any of this told to me? No. All my vet said was that he gave the drug to his dog, and if he thought it was harmful, would he continue to do so?

It’s obvious that doctors, both animal and human, believe whatever the pharmaceutical companies report on their drugs because that’s how they were trained. Most know nothing about alternative treatments and are not interested in learning, either.

I will always blame myself for my dog’s death by not stopping the treatment sooner. Had I known the side effects of Deramaxx, I would never have given it to my dog. I will never again be so ignorant with the health of my other dogs.

Name withheld by request

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Go gluten-free
I read “Going Gluten-Free” (WDJ March 2005) with great interest. Dr. John Symes advises your readers with dogs – all dogs, not just those that show symptoms of poor digestion – to choose gluten-free foods that do not contain wheat, barley, rye, soy, corn, and rice. As such, it occurred to me that your readers may be interested in learning more about new Innova EVO, a grain-free, low-carb dry food that fits Dr. Symes’ recommendation to a “T.” More information about EVO can be found on www.naturapet.com or by calling (800) 532-7261.

Peter Atkins, Vice President
Natura Pet Products, San Jose, CA

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Wolf diets
In “What a Wolf Eats” (March 2005) the author stated that, “The wolves at the [Wolf Conservation] Center are fed dry dog food and fresh roadkill as it becomes available.”

It is the WCC’s preference to feed the wolves a primary diet of deer and other raw meats and bones. We believe that this is the most appropriate diet, and there is no shortage of road-killed deer here in the Northeast.

However, the WCC is only one facility in a network of 40-plus that participate in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) and the red wolf (Canis rufus). Each of these SSP programs has a management group that publishes the suggested animal husbandry practices for the facilities participating in the program. The management group for each of these species has determined that a dry food for “exotic canines” should be fed to the SSP animals as part of the protocol.

Since we are only one facility in a broader network of organizations working to save these unique animals from extinction, it is our responsibility to honor the rules of the SSP program. To accomplish the objectives of the SSP programs we feed deer carcasses and the dry food to these wolves.

The four Ambassador wolves at the Center that are not part of the SSP program are fed only a raw meat diet consisting of deer as the primary food.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this important point.

Barry Braden, Managing Director
Wolf Conservation Center
South Salem, NY

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Pets and PETA
“On Trial,” an article in the April issue about pre-market feeding trials conducted by pet food companies, and PETA’s opposition to these and all other lab testing conducted with dogs and cats by pet food makers, triggered not the most mail we’ve ever received in response to an article, but certainly the most vitriolic. We’re not going to bore you by repeating the attacks. Suffice to say about a dozen people (as of press time, anyway) cancelled their subscriptions to WDJ to let us know how they felt about criticism of the animal rights group.

It was interesting to us, therefore, that the total number of responses were almost evenly balanced, with about half of the letter writers expressing their opposition to PETA, and about half weighing in with unqualified support of the animal rights group. Here are some pro-PETA excerpts:

• “I support PETA in fighting cruelty to animals for any reason. I object to any animal living in a laboratory, regardless of any perceived benefit.”

• “I would like to, effective immediately, unsubscribe from WDJ. I found many of your comments regarding PETA and pet food trials selfish and shortsighted. For example: ‘We believe feeding trials provide information that is beneficial to the dogs that consume the food – our dogs.’ This may come as a shock to you, but I also have concern for other dogs that are not mine, as well as other animals.”

• “I know PETA is a organization with a controversial image. I believe that you should not look at PETA for their media stunts and what you call propaganda. I think that you should question why PETA would waste their money to break down a company that provides food for our companion animals. I do not believe that PETA or any other organization would just attack Iams unless they found something to attack.”

And in the other corner:

• “I am totally against PETA, even though I hate that animals are used in lab testing. There is no way that lab testing using animals is fair to the animals used for testing.”

• “You exhibited a great deal of patience with the PETA group. They are often radical liberals who will seek any opportunity to challenge nearly anything for the sake of advancing their cause. Their goals are notoriety and power; material facts and specific allegations of “cruelty” often take a back seat to those goals.”

• “PETA cares more about triggering emotional responses – and especially, about the financial donations they receive from animal lovers (contributions totaled more than $27 million last year) – than they do about working with industry to effect meaningful change. The improvements for lab dogs they forced Iams to implement seem to mean nothing to them. I give my money to groups that work for animals quietly and effectively, such as the Humane Farming Association.”

PETA, it’s clear, constitutes the third rail of animal journalism. But that’s not what the article was really about! Happily, we also received feedback demonstrating that the article helped some readers learn about feeding trials, so they could make their own decisions about whether to seek or avoid buying foods that conduct these trials:

• “As much as I love my dogs, and as much as I would do anything to protect them, I certainly do not want other dogs to suffer and die in the name of misguided science aimed at helping my dogs ...

“Your article did an excellent job of presenting a balanced approach to the issues. Each month I learn quite a bit from WDJ on the subject that is most dear to my heart: my companion dogs. Believe me, there is nothing I appreciate more than solid information on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.”

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