Sunday, May 27, 2012


The long Memorial Day weekend unofficially marks the beginning of summer for most of the United States.  As we memorialize the men and women who have served our country in the military, it's been refreshing to read about our troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, hasn't it?  Thanks to all who served!

Helpful Buckeye has been keeping an informal tally of e-mails with questions about dogs and cats and...this spring there have been 3 topics that are well ahead in frequency of being asked.  In one form or another, our readers have been wondering about ear problems in dogs, eye problems (mostly in dogs), and various aspects of pet food...from prescription foods to homemade (or natural) pet foods to all the recent publicity of contamination of pet food products.  Obviously, each of these topics could take up several issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, so we'll deal with each one separately.  However, in order to whet your appetite just a bit, Helpful Buckeye will use this Memorial Day issue to give you a sample introduction to each of these most-requested topics.

Dealing With Doggy Ear Infections

An ear-care routine will help prevent problems

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Got a dog with floppy ears? Or one that loves to go swimming? Then you are probably familiar with canine ear infections.

Bacteria love warm, moist environments, and the inside of a dog’s ear—especially one that hangs down and prevents air circulation—is a bacterial dream home. (There’s no hard evidence that droopy ears are more infection-prone than upright ears, but anecdotally, veterinarians say they see more infections in dogs whose ears hang down). 

Ears can become infected when dogs get baths or go swimming and don’t have their ears thoroughly dried afterward. Infections also occur when air inside the ears can’t circulate well because the dog has too much hair or wax inside the ear, or because the dog’s ear canals are too narrow (stenotic, in vet speak).

No matter what kind of ears your dog has, you can keep them clean and infection-free with an ear-care routine. Start by looking at the ears. If they are healthy, the skin lining the ear canal should look pinkish-gray, like the skin on the dog’s belly or beneath his fur. A light coating of golden-colored wax is normal and helps to stop dirt or foreign objects from going farther inside the ear. There shouldn’t be any grass seeds or other little foreign objects.

Sniff the ears. They shouldn’t smell yeasty or otherwise unpleasant.

If your dog’s ears are normal, that’s all you need to do. There’s no need to routinely clean a dog’s ears unless they are dirty or have more wax than be continued.

Adapted from:

Seeing Eye to Eye - Comparing Cat and Dog Vision

By Paul Ciampanelli

The eyes of cats and dogs are quite similar to our own, but how are they different? The cat has the largest eyes of any meat eater; if our own eyes were proportionally the same, human eyes would be eight inches across. But it goes beyond the looks-pun intended. In fact, the way pets see influences how they interact with each other-and with us.

Field of Vision

Prey animals like rabbits can watch in two directions at once with eyes on each side of the head. But predators (dogs and cats) have eyes toward the front of the face that gives them depth perception and binocular vision so they can correctly time pursuit and pounce. Most dogs have only about 30 to 60 degrees of binocular overlap versus approximately 140 degrees cats and humans. But dogs are champions when it comes to visual field of view. That means when King looks straight ahead he can still see 240 degrees, compared to 200 degrees in cats and 180 degrees in humans.

Seeing 20/20

Dogs can't focus clearly on objects closer than about ten inches (which explains why King may miss the two or three pieces of kibble left in his bowl). Cats are a bit better at near vision. But both dogs and cats rely more on motion rather than focus, and are rather farsighted, an evolutionary side effect of scanning the distance for prey. A dog can detect strong hand signals from as far away as a mile.

The visual acuity of dogs is about 20/75, although German shepherds, Rottweilers and Schnauzers appear to be even more near sighted. Cats have dogs beat with an average acuity between 20/100 and 20/200.


Contact lenses can correct nearsighted vision in dogs. That can be important especially for service animals or hunting dogs. But contacts aren't practical when dogs lose them so easily. Dogs do benefit from being fitted with glasses. A veterinary ophthalmologist evaluates vision by refraction in the same way non-verbal children are examined. Products like are designed to fit the canine face in all its various shapes and sizes.

Low Light, High Light

Like human eyes, the dog's iris is able to contract the pupil to a round pinpoint that limits the amount allowed inside. The feline eye is a more complex figure-eight muscle that closes to a slit much further than the canine eye.

Both cats and dogs have a tapetum lucidum, a layer of highly reflective cells behind the retina that reflects back any light the eye captures. That produces the eerie night-shine that can be seen from your pet's eyes and is why cats require only 1/6th the illumination level and use twice as much available light as people. Dogs' eyes are about half as efficient as the cats' but still better at using light than humans.

Color Perception?

Both cats and dogs have fewer specialized cone cells on the retina able to distinguish colors than people do. But they can see color.

Dogs seem to be similar to people who are "red-green color-blind." Cats probably see more in terms of blue/green shades and appear able to tell the difference between colors that contrast. For cats, pattern and brightness are more important than color. They can see color but it doesn't matter to them.

Peripheral Vision

Cats are experts at seeing motion from the corners of their eyes. Cats also have a highly specialized ability to make extremely rapid eye movements, which allows them to better detect and follow an object, such as a mouse or even a feather on the end of a string toy. But dogs beat out cats on peripheral vision.

Both cats and dogs have a high density line of vision cells across the retina, called a visual streak. That lets them see sharp-focused objects at a distance even in the extremes of peripheral vision (out of the corners of their eyes). Cats and dogs tend to ignore stationary objects but this visual streak triggers their instinctive urge to chase whenever something moves in their peripheral vision.

The visual streak is most pronounced in long-nosed dogs-the breeds developed to hunt and chase. But many of the short-nosed dogs like Pugs don't have this visual streak. Instead, they have high density vision cells arranged in a single spot on the retina, called the area centralis. The area centralis has three times the density of nerve endings as the visual streak. That makes short-nose dogs much better able to see and react to human facial expressions-or watch TV.

Adapted from: 

A pet's diet demands attention

By Lawrence Gerson, V.M.D. and Linda Mathias, V.M.D.

Other than an infectious disease scare, nothing brings a flurry of panicked calls to our office like a pet food (or treat) recall.

It seems almost weekly there is a problem in the human or animal food supply. We are all terrified of feeding our kids and pets products that can make them sick.

Recently, when Diamond Pet Foods had a recall for possible salmonella contamination, even veterinarians were surprised at how many products come from a single manufacturing plant. Another problem is that the source of all of the ingredients may be hard to track. Foods made in the U.S. may still contain ingredients from China that have been linked to kidney failure. You might have to read and re-read the ingredient list and even contact the company to be sure what is in the product.

Consumers should try to purchase foods from name-brand companies that have quality control, and list the scientific formulation of their product. This is difficult, as even top-of-the-line products have had quality-control issues and subsequent recalls of both food and prescription products. This is distressing to both veterinarians and consumers who struggle to find substitutes.

We have to give credit to the Ohio and Michigan agriculture departments for finding salmonella as the source of the food poisoning from dry dog food manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods. Several pets have been reported ill and 16 people have illness traced to the contaminated food. We were surprised to see that dry dog food was responsible, as it is heated during preparation and should be an unlikely culprit for salmonella contamination.

 No owner wants to see a pet get sick from its food, and there is no excuse for contamination. The issue is magnified by pet owners who, in trying to avoid quality concerns of commercial pet food, make a homemade diet using raw meat. An alarming number of clients are choosing a raw meat diet, but many are unaware of the serious risks and dangers that the raw meat diet poses to human health.

Diseases such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria and toxoplasmosis can be carried in raw meat, milk, eggs or produce. Pets can often tolerate some contamination in foods, but people can get very ill. Humans can become sick by contact with the raw food either directly or indirectly by contact with food bowls, counters, fur, saliva or feces. Particular attention has to be given when children and the elderly are exposed to a pet eating a raw meat diet. We have heard other veterinarians discuss the value of raw diets but never heard a pediatrician, infectious disease physician or public health official advocate a raw meat diet for pets.

There are hundreds of different foods available to feed pets, but not all are scientifically formulated. They vary in price and quality. Many of the benefits people see in feeding a raw meat homemade diet could also be accomplished by feeding a better or different commercial diet, or by adding supplements or probiotics. Animals do have sensitivities and allergies to foods, and limited antigen diets can be successful to treat their problems. Trial and error is often needed to find a good diet for a specific problem or pet

The use of commercial diets is a better choice than homemade pet food, in our opinion. With the options available, a quality diet with proper clinical trials and quality control is a better choice.

So, what can we as owners and veterinarians do to ensure the safety of our pets and families? Check the FDA website regularly for information. Read labels, make sure the company is reputable, and that scientists and veterinarians are involved in the formulation of the diet you feed your pet. Quality control by the manufacturer and quality ingredients give you the best chance of avoiding contaminated or toxic ingredients.

Adapted from:

During the month of June, Helpful Buckeye will give each of these most-requested topics more discussion space.  If you have any questions about these topics, send them by e-mail to:

The  LA Dodgers continue to win and still have the best record in all of baseball.  Everybody on the team has been contributing while Matt Kemp, our best player, has been on the disabled list.  He comes back to play on Tuesday.

The San Antonio Spurs opened the Western Conference Finals of the NBA against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight with a hard fought win.  Even though the Spurs were behind at the start of the 4th quarter, I knew they could put together a comeback...and they didn't disappoint.  Helpful Buckeye still feels that the NBA players are the best athletes in the world and by the time we get to the final four teams, they are really fun to watch!

Helpful Buckeye is really looking forward to buying some flowers and herbs for my outdoor pots...remember that the date of our last frost here in Flagstaff is approximately June 14th.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye enjoyed one of our favorite oxymorons tonight...that's right, jumbo shrimp!  Several of them were as big as lobsters!

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

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