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FDA Issues Warning Regarding Grain Free Diets

On July 12, 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to pet owners and veterinary healthcare professionals about reports of heart disease (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in dogs eating grain free diets.  The diets in question contain peas, lentils, legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients.  At this time, there may be more questions than answers but here is what we know.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that results in an enlarged heart.  When chambers of the heart become enlarged, the muscles become thinner and weaken. As a direct result, the heart has difficulty delivering blood and oxygen to organs.  With the progression of the disease, the valves start leaking which leads to fluid accumulation in the chest and the abdomen.  Symptoms associated with fluid in the chest are lethargy, exercise intolerance, coughing and decreased appetite.  Animals with fluid building up in the abdomen will have a distended abdomen, lethargy, anorexia and sometimes vomiting.  

Causes of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

  1. Genetics: Breeds that are more typically associated with DCM are large and giant breed dogs, such as Boxers, Dobermans, Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes.  
  2. Taurine deficiency: In the 1980’s it was discovered that Taurine deficiency was the leading cause of DCM in cats. This has largely been resolved by the supplementation of Taurine in their diets.  Two years ago, Dr Stern at US Davis started noticing an increase of DCM in Golden Retrievers that were eating the same grain free diet. These patients also were Taurine deficient.  Additionally, he found that these patients responded favorably to taurine supplementation.  Other breeds that seem to be at risk for taurine deficiency is the Cocker Spaniel, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, English Setter, Portuguese Water Dog and Irish Wolfhound.
  3. Grain Free Diets: There is a third group of animals that do not fall into either of the above categories.  They are the patients that are on grain free, boutique or exotic ingredient diets but do not have a Taurine deficiency. At this time, we do not know why this group of animals are developing DCM but it could even be a result of something in the diet that is toxic to the heart. There are several groups of veterinary researchers looking into this now.

A bit about the diets

In the past decade or so, we have seen a rise in grain free, boutique and exotic protein diets.  These diets require the manufacturer to have more expertise in nutrition in order to provide a well balanced meal to your pet.  Exotic ingredients may have different digestibility as well as make other ingredients less bioavailable.  Without the proper research, serious nutritional deficiencies can occur affecting the life of your pet.

Which ingredients have been implicated ?

At this time, the FDA reports that the following are main ingredients in many of the diets: potatoes, multiple legumes including peas, lentils and seeds of legumes.  Exotic ingredients that have been seen include kangaroo, duck, pea, fave beans, buffalo, tapioca, salmon, lamb, barley, venison and chickpeas. 

What should you do?

  1. The easiest option for dogs without heart disease is to change the diet to a brand whose manufacturer has nutritional expertise and strict standards.  Lisa Freeman, DVM is a board certified Veterinary Nutritionist at Tufts University with some great advise for choosing a diet.  Check out this link to her website with lots of nutrition information for your pet: Nutrition Information
  2. If you do not want to change your pets diet, we recommend having an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and  test blood Taurine levels.  If the Taurine level is low with or without heart muscle disease,  begin supplementing Taurine based on recommendations by your veterinarian and change the diet. 
  3. Remember some dogs are not actually Taurine deficient. and still develop DCM.  Monitoring for symptoms consistent with DCM and yearly cardiac auscultation is imperative if you are not going to change from a grain free or boutique diet. 

As always, we are here to help. Please call us with questions regarding this important issue!




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sick dog, canine influenza virus

Canine Influenza Virus: Should You Vaccinate?

Well, it was just a matter of time. Canine Influenza Virus has made it to the west coast.  We have been lucky in Bend so far- no reported cases as of the day I write this post. Portland has had confirmed cases and most of you have heard of the outbreak in California. Now is the time to think about whether the vaccine is right for you and your pet.

Canine Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus that has been caused by 2 strains of influenza A.  While it does not live in the environment long, it is easily transmitted by close contact with an infected and contagious dog. Animals are contagious before they have any symptoms. This makes it particularly difficult to control an outbreak. There are 2 syndromes seen with influenza: the mild form and the severe form.

Symptoms: Symptoms of the mild form of Canine Influenza Virus includes a cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. The cough can be soft and wet or dry and honking (similar to kennel cough).  These dogs are lethargic, have a decreased appetite and  fever. In the severe form of the disease, the dogs develop a high fever (temperatures as high as 104F to 106F) and pneumonia.  Symptoms of pneumonia include increased respiratory rate and effort. In both of these syndromes, they can have thick nasal discharge.

Transmission: The virus is spread through aerosolized infectious secretions or direct contact with saliva and mucous. Contact with infected toys is another potential mode of transmission.

Treatment: Treatment is geared toward supportive care.  Fluids, cough suppressants and anti-viral medications are used in the mild form. Dogs with the severe form of the disease are often hospitalized on IV Fluids, IV antibiotics (to treat secondary bacterial pneumonia), oxygen and antiviral medication. 

Who is at risk? Because dogs in the United States have not been exposed to Canine Influenza Virus before, nearly all animals who are exposed become infected.  Some of the animals that become infected will fight it off before they have any clinical signs.  Animals that frequent dog parks, groomers,  daycare, boarding faculties, dog shows, etc are at higher risk for exposure.  The very young, geriatric and those with respiratory compromise are at higher risk for severe disease.  To date, there are no known cases of Canine Influenza that has been transmitted to humans.  However, there have been cases of Canine Influenza in cats, guinea pigs and ferrets.

The Vaccine: At Riverside Animal Hospital we are using the bivalent vaccine to protect our patients against canine influenza virus.  This means it has both of the strains of  virus (H3N1 and H3N8) in the vaccine.  As with the human vaccine, it will not completely prevent the disease but it will lessen the severity of the symptoms and duration of clinical signs.  The vaccine is administered sub-cutaneously in the left shoulder. This injection is repeated in 3 weeks. Full immunity is achieved 3 to 4 weeks later when the immune system has had time create protective antibodies against the virus.

For more information regarding canine influenza virus, check out the AVMA website on Canine Flu

For information on our vaccine protocols visit, vaccine protocols.

Please call us at Riverside Animal Hospital with any questions regarding Canine Influenza and whether this vaccine is right for your pet.





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Riverside Animal Hospital Landscape Photography

Riverside Animal Hospital’s Landscape Photography

Mike Putnam’s Landscape Photography at Riverside Animal Hospital

Here at Riverside, we periodically field questions about our recent remodel of the inside of our animal hospital.  One of the most commonly asked about subjects is the landscape photographs that reside in the clinic.  Our landscape photographs were all captured and created by  Oregon Landscape Photographer, Mike Putnam.  Mike is a retired equine veterinarian and a full-time professional landscape photographer who, not coincidentally, is married to our very own, Dr. Debbie Putnam. We have several of Mike’s framed Landscape photographs displayed, including this big beautiful print, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area which can be behind the front desk in our reception area.  

Riverside Animal Hospital, Front Desk

Riverside Animal Hospital, Front Desk

Mike captures all of his fine art Landscape photography with a large format 4×5 film camera.  His camera is part of what allows him to make huge landscape photographs with exceptional detail( the framed Mt. Jefferson print behind our reception desk is over 5 feet tall!).  We also have photos of Mt. Rainier, the Metolius River and  “Summit Sunrise”, an image that Mike captured from the summit of South Sister in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area at our hospital.  To view more of Mike’s beautiful fine art landscape Photographs, visit his website, Mike Putnam Photography.

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Heat Stroke in Dogs & Cats

As we slip into the cooler weather of the fall, I find myself wanting to log more miles in my running shoes. Even more, game than I am, Walter, my lab, sees my running shoes and knows that this is the moment he has been waiting for all of his life (or at least since our last run together).  As he jumps and spins by our front door, begging to come along, the guilt of not taking him outweighs the worry I have about the run being too long or too hot.  Now I must adjust my plan to accommodate his needs- the length of run, access to shade during the run, availability of water to drink and cool off in to name a few to help avoid heat stroke for my dog.   

Heat stroke in dogs and cats can occur when an animal’s body temperature exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This most often occurs when animals are left in cars without adequate ventilation.  A study by Stanford University showed that the temperature within a vehicle can increase by up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a one hour time period regardless of the outside temperature.  So let’s do the math.  Let’s pretend I put Walter in the car and go for a run at 8:00 am.  It is a lovely 60 degrees out and we run for 1 hour on the river trail.  On the way back to town, I decide to stop at Safeway to get some grocery shopping done- only now it is 65 degrees out.  Still cool enough, right?  I am in the store for an hour and when I get back to the car, Walter is a wobbly, panting, droopy puddle of a dog and it is 105 degrees in the car!  

What should you do about heat stroke?

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heat stroke, immediately remove him from the environment he is in and put him in a cooler one.  A direct fan on him/ her is a good idea.  Wet the ears and paws with cool water and place cool wet towels on the armpits, belly, and neck.  The water should be cool but not cold and do not use ice packs too cool.  Allow access to cool, fresh drinking water if your pet is not vomiting.  If you are able to take your pet’s temperature, cool until the body temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once this is achieved, it is time to get your pet back in the car to head to your veterinarian as heat stroke is a condition that affects many body systems and cooling is not enough. Animals that suffer from heat stroke can develop life-threatening blood clotting disorders, kidney issues, gastrointestinal problems and more.  It is imperative that they are evaluated by a veterinarian.  

Who is at risk?

During my veterinary career, I have seen all makes and models of dogs and cats develop heat stroke. Some dogs are more prone than others: Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, overweight dogs, Labrador Retrievers (Labs can have a genetic condition that makes them more prone to heat intolerance and exercise induced collapse), to name a few.  I have seen dogs that are quite fit and seemingly accustomed to running in the heat collapse, as well.  The cats I have treated were almost always mistakenly locked in a garage or attic without water for several days.  As you can imagine, none of these incidents were intentionally malicious, and all were tragic for the pet and owner.  Even with a good outcome, the guilt the family member suffered was heart-wrenching on its own.

The take home message is- any animal is susceptible to heat stroke.  It is up to us to prevent it.  When the weather turns cooler, it is easy to forget that they are wearing a fur coat and cool their whole body by panting – which in turn makes the car they might be locked in even hotter.  

Sometimes, it is better for them to be left at home!






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Last One in the Pool…..

Water Safety

Many of us live in central Oregon because we love water- the lakes and rivers provide ample opportunities for swimming, fishing, camping and paddling. And to be a dog here? Heaven! But just as with people, there are a number of ways dogs can get into trouble

First off, dogs do drown. Some don’t swim very well (or at all) and get into trouble. Others are good swimmers, but get in bad situations. Life vests are an excellent idea if your dog is around fast moving or deep water (out on a lake). Avoid having your pet off-leash in areas of rivers with fast moving water, waterfalls, or cliffs. Keep your dog on a leash in these areas to prevent accidents from happening. You just never know when “SQUIRREL!” might happen.

Second, dogs are susceptible to toxic algae and water parasites just like we are. If there are alerts for humans not to swim in a body of water, do not allow your dog to swim there either. Blue green algae is the most well-known toxic algae in this area and levels are tested in certain lakes. The following website Algae Bloom Advisories  posts alerts and has additional information on what to look for as not all lakes are monitored. In addition to algae, dogs can contract Giardia which is an infection that causes diarrhea and occasionally vomiting. This can be transmitted to other members of your family so seek veterinary care if your pet develops diarrhea after swimming in the lakes or rivers around here. Salmon poisoning is actually an infection that your dog can contract after eating infected raw fish. The most common symptoms of this disease are high fever and diarrhea. This is seen more commonly in the Willamette Valley but some of the local lakes are stocked with fish that have been exposed to the infectious agent.

p>Third, dogs can actually drink too much water and get water toxicity. Go figure! If your dog loves playing in the water and swallows water as they frolic, pull them out every 30 minutes and have them take a break. Water toxicity is rare, but we do see cases in this area because of the popularity of visiting lakes and playing at the rivers. Symptoms usually occur within 1-3 hours of consuming way too much water and are a result of severe electrolyte imbalances- death can result. Symptoms can include ataxia (wobbliness), seizures, inability to walk, and coma.

Central Oregonians love the outdoors and love to enjoy it with their four legged family members. Remember, if you would not let your child do something, it is probably not safe for your dog!

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Is Your Dog Afraid of Fireworks & Thunderstorms?

Is Your Dog Afraid of Fireworks & Thunderstorms?

Our roller coaster approach to summer is in full swing, with thunderstorms and hail keeping us on our toes! For many dogs in central Oregon, thunder is no fun at all.  But perhaps worse for many dogs is the 4thof July and…. dare we say it, fireworks. Between lighting our yards on fire, burning our clothes, chasing kids with sparklers who are chasing kids, and figuring out a vantage point to watch Pilot Butte light up…the 4th of July can be quite a chaotic time for pets and people!
Here are some tips on how to help make these frightening times a little less frightening (and safer!) for your 4-legged friends:
  1.  Make sure your pet has ID on them. Collar and microchip. It’s important. Our local humane societies reach max capacity EVERY YEAR over 4th of July with all the dogs that panic during fireworks and run away. EVERY YEAR this happens. Please have identification on your pet.
  2. During the week of 4th of July, when your enthusiastic neighbors are testing their fireworks for the big day, do not leave your dog outside unattended. The same goes for days when thunderstorms are forecasted. Don’t leave them the backyard while you go to work or run to the store. They are going to panic and jump (or dig) and run. And not be there when you get home. A happy ending is they end up safely at the humane society or with a neighbor.  A sad ending is they get injured or lost.
  3. Put your pet in a quiet place- ideally, the most sound-proof part of the house, and close the doors.
  4. If they are crate-trained, have them in their crate. We want them in a place they feel safe and secure.
  5. Provide some kind of white noise- a fan works great. Music, radio and TV generally don’t work well because they all have sound fluctuations. You want something that generates a steady sound.
  6. Sedatives to help calm your pet are available from your veterinarian. For many pets they must be given hours before the thunderstorm or fireworks in order to work. Give the sedative, and make sure your pet is then kept quiet and calm so they get the best effect. This is very important. If your pet is exercised or otherwise stimulated after giving the sedative, it is not going to work as well.
Dogs that display mild signs of anxiety can often be distracted by treats, new toys, playing a game of fetch, or engaging them in some favorite activity. These are all great things to do with your pet to help them associate scary loud noises with good things. 
If you have further questions, please feel free to give us a call!
Here’s to a happy and healthy summer!
Sarah Cummings
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"Bishop" Green.

Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitoes in Oregon

 Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitoes in Oregon (Specifically Bend, OR and Surrounding Areas)

When I arrived in Central Oregon (many) years ago, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes were things of the past.  I bragged to friends back in the eastern United States that we did not have mosquitos in Oregon and, therefore, we did not have heartworms.  When I left Alabama, we were treating 5 to 7 cases of adult heartworms per week and every dog that left our clinic was placed on heartworm preventative.  I also remember spending time every night picking ticks off of Muncie, my black lab that I had while in Veterinary School.  And fleas….. I do not even want to think about the flea infestations.  A number of chemicals that were poured, sprayed and aerosolized in my presence during that time could not have been good for anyone!  

Fast forward to 2015.  Mild winters and warm summers in Central Oregon have resulted in an increase prevalence of these blood sucking creatures. We are seeing more fleas and ticks so far this year than in previous years.  With an increase in a number of ticks, comes in an increase in the possibility of tick-borne diseases.  The following tick-borne diseases have been reported in Oregon: 

  • Lyme disease: transmitted by the Western Black Legged Tick (Deer Tick) is characterized by fever, joint pain, rash and joint swelling.
  • Ehrlichiosis: transmitted by the Western Black Legged Tick (Deer Tick) is characterized fever, malaise, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cough.
  • Babesiosis: transmitted by the Western Black Legged Tick (Deer Tick) is characterized by fever, chills, sweating, muscle aches and fatigue.

Mosquitos transmit Heartworm Disease  (HWD) which has not historically been an issue in Central Oregon.  As nights get warmer and the ambient temperature rises, we will start to see more cases of Heartworm disease.  Additionally, if you travel with your pet to warmer climates (Willamette Valley, California, etc) they are at higher risk to develop Heartworms.  To date, all of the cases of HWD in Central Oregon that I have seen, have a travel history that suggests exposure elsewhere.

Fleas are not only a nuisance but can occasionally transmit disease.  In 2012, Prineville had a  case of the Plague which is caused by a type of bacteria called Yersinia Pestis. This organism is transmitted by fleas to mammals.  Oregon has had 5 incidents of the Plague since 1995. The Plague is characterized by fever, malaise, and enlarged lymph nodes. Current recommendation to prevent the spread of this disease revolves around flea prevention in animals.

There are many new products on the market that work well to either repel or kill these critters.  We are currently carrying the following products:

  • Bravecto: This is an oral chew that lasts 3 months. It kills fleas within hours and ticks within a day.  It is safe for your dog but it is not approved for cats.  It is currently not labeled for use in treating lice but the early data is promising.
  • Parastar Plus: Topical flea and tick product that kills lice, as well.  It works for 30 days.  It is not safe for use in cats and caution should be used if using it on a dog that has close contact with cats.
  • Trifexis: A monthly tablet that kills fleas and prevents heartworm disease and intestinal parasites.  Trifexis is not labeled for lice and does not control ticks.
  • Interceptor is a monthly heartworm preventative.  It is also efficacious in treating intestinal parasites.

There are many over the counter topical products and collars that have been met with varying success.  Please feel free to call us if you have any questions about flea, tick, and heartworm products.  Here’s to a bug-free summer!


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