Treats, Snacks and Supplements

Feeding Yeast tablets

Question: Hi - haven't written to you in a while - Mileena my boxer who had the mast cell surgery has an ear infection - staph - the vet says this is fairly normal for dogs but it is our first. I have a question - I have been giving them Yeast & Garlic wafers (supplements) - could the yeast have caused this infection?

Why is yeast good for them?

Thanks, Jane

Answer: Jane-

There are no particular benefits to yeast that have been proven. The yeast tablets do not promote yeast infections in the body, either, though. Proponents of yeast tablets believe that they help control fleas but this has been disproven in a number of studies. Yeast's are a source of B vitamins but most dogs don't need the additional supplementation of this vitamin.

Mike Richards, DVM 8/27/2001

Problems with large bones as chew toys in some dogs

Question: Hello! Thank you for your offer to answer questions to subscribers. I have a four year old mixed lab/ springer dog. I bought him a large smoked bone from the local pet store. It is truly a leg bone from a cow (not rawhide), quite large and typically very hard for my vigorous chewer.

My dog went to town on the bone and didn't appear to break off any appreciable sized parts of the bone. But two days later he had frequent vomiting and diarrhea with a dribble of red blood dripping from his rectum. I took him to the vet and they ran a blood panel and took an Xray. They told me he had bone chips in the ileum--cecal region - like appendicitis (per the vet)- and they would try to lubricate him up and if he still had problems - then surgery would be needed the next day. He was better by the next day, but I did request a follow up x-ray to make sure the bone chips weren't still there - and they weren't. Here's my question: Do you think this is anatomically related, like a diverticulitis, or truly related to the bone? Do I need to be concerned with recurrence? Is there a diet that you'd recommend that will help prevent future digestive problems? Thank you for your help! Nancy

Answer: Nancy-

We see this sequence of events pretty frequently, at least several times a year. Dogs that can chew small pieces off of big bones get constipation that is related to the bone chips in the stool forming a sort of cement stool. These chips sometimes feel sharp when a gloved finger is inserted into the rectum but I don't remember serious complications from one of these episodes, except that these dogs seem genuinely pained as they attempt to have a bowel movement. I do not know why some dogs are able to produce this problem when they get bones and other dogs are not (or at least do not have the problem). I don't think this is related to anatomical problems but can not be sure of that, as we have not ever had to do surgery or pursue colonoscopy to resolve the problem. Dogs don't learn from this experience so their companions have to --- in dogs that do this it is best to avoid bones, or at least the types of bones that are known to cause the problem, after episodes of constipation like this occur. I don't usually recommend dietary changes other than discontinuing the use of bones as chew toys if a dog is prone to this problem.

Mike Richards, DVM 12/6/2000

Rawhide chewies

Question: My latest concern is something I read about two pet wolves who died a horrible death, in spite of all veterinary attempts to save them. It was guessed that a long-buried rawhide bone they had dug up from the back yard (the owner saw them playing with it and did not think it could harm them) probably loaded with bacteria or mold from the soil.

Naturally, I am wondering about this, in connection with the, as yet, unsolved mystery of Sheila's death. I have decided to stop pumping money into all these tasty shinbones and rawhide products, but am running so scared, all the time, now wondering how folks' dogs manage to escape death if permitted to be outside in the back yard unsupervised. Can I let my dogs out in the yard, and if so, what precautions ought I to take?

Thanks so much. Best, H.

Answer: H.-

There are a lot of hazards to health and it simply isn't possible to avoid them all. I had not heard of the incident with the wolves but during the time I have been in practice I haven't seen many problems associated with rawhides, other than a tendency of some dogs to swallow them whole and then throw them up. Some dogs will swallow the knots tied at the end of rawhide bones and I have heard of an incidence of intestinal obstruction associated with that. There is the potential for buried food articles to become contaminated with bacteria but I don't think the risk of food poisoning associated with this is very great. In the end, there has to be some fun in life and so there has to be some risk, because just about everything that is fun poses at least a small risk. I think you can let the dogs out and not worry too much. I give my dogs rawhides but none of them like to bury them.

Mike Richards, DVM 12/8/99

Nutritional Supplement

Question: Hello!

What is your opinion of a supplement (canine) that supposedly "targets the nutritional gap between what nature provides and what is available in commercial foods." This supplement (which must be refrigerataed) contains the following:

Flax seed blackstrap molasses rice bran dried yeast sunflower seed freeze dried liver dehydrated alfalfa dried carrot freeze dried bone dried fish meal freeze dried oyster sprouted green barley dried kelp lecithin garlic yucca schidigera extract

Do you think there's any value in adding this to a dog's diet??? Thanks so much for your time in answering this question


Answer: Kristin

I wish that I could answer this question for you with any degree of certainty, but I can't. The truth is that I simply don't know if there are enough advantages to any of these products, or if they are present in quantities sufficient to help, if there are advantages, to make them worthwhile.

I have practiced long enough to see the average lifespan of my patients increase dramatically while most of them were being fed commercial pet foods. So my basic opinion is that commercial pet foods must be reasonably good. Whether they can be "optimized" is a much more difficult question.

I am sure that as more and more information becomes available about nutrition in pets SOME of the current food supplements for which health claims are made will actually prove to be beneficial. If you want to supplement them while waiting to find out which ones really do provide benefits I don't see a lot of harm in doing that. I don't supplement my dog's food (well except for a Fig Newton, or a carrot, or a piece of fish I didn't finish..... but just enough to share a little food joy with them).

I really do wish I could provide a definite answer to your question. It would make my life a lot easier. But the real answer is that I don't know and that I don't think anyone else knows, for sure, either.

Mike Richards, DVM 3/11/99

Veggie Snacks

Q: We have on occasion fed our dogs tomato slices, since they seemed to like them, but recently I have heard that they can be toxic to dogs. Is there any truth to this? If so, are we likely to have caused health problems for our dogs down the road? Thanks in advance.....

A: Tony- I tell people who try to feed me tomatoes that they are poisonous, too. I know I'm lying but it is so much better than telling them I just don't like tomatoes even though they carefully grew such beauties themselves.

To the best of my knowledge and after a search through databases available to me, I know of no toxicity associated with eating tomatoes. There is some controversy over the toxicity of eating tomato plants (the green parts) but I doubt this applies to your dogs.

I don't think you have or will harm them feeding them an occasional tomato.

Mike Richards, DVM

Michal Response: Dr Mike likes his tomatoes cooked into pizza sauce. My dog Buster and I prefer to eat them in a salad with Romaine (almost every night.) - and we're fine.:)

You might offer your dogs raw carrots as well - they make a dandy treat.

Carrots in diet

Q: I have a 4yo Munsterlander bitch who gets 'hot spots' from just about everything. She will be fine for ages and ages and her coat will come back nicely, then something sets her off and she nibbles herself raw. I have had skin scrapes done but they were inconclusive. They are caused not by anything hormonal. She is kept flea free also. At present I have her on 'Nutro' which is a specifically formulated all in one dry food for dogs with problem skin. I may be a big softie, but I figure she will get bored with this. Her fave food is raw carrot and I was just wondering whether this is ok to give her with her dry food. I dice it up and drizzle safflower oil (1 tbsp per 500gms carrot) over it. Is there any reason why I shouldn't be doing this? Her skin has cleared up well on Nutro is the past. Abi - Auckland. NZ

A: Abi- I see no harm at all in giving carrots. We recommend this to owners whose dogs are overweight and need low calorie snacks. Many dogs really like carrots. If she started losing weight I might suspect she was getting more carrots than she should but otherwise this should be fine.

Mike Richards, DVM

Doggie Treats

Q: Dear Vets: I have three small dogs. A 5lb poodle/maltese, a 15 lb poodle and a chiuahuaha. I just got the latter one so I can't spell it yet. My question is about treats that you buy at the store. Are any of them any good or bad? I used to buy "hot Doggies", which my dogs went crazy over but the company quit making them as they said they didn't sell well. Funny thing wal-mart could not keep this product in stock as it sold out as soon as the new shipment arrived. Snausages went over like a dead frog, as did pepperoni type sticks. Hard bisquits are out as the small poodle is 14 yrs and is missing a lot of teeth on the right side. (His tongue falls out the side of his mouth. Really cute??) I've heard that most of the treats are really bad for pets. Could you give me some advice?

A: I hate to admit this, but I do not have much knowledge of the dog treats available currently. I know that some meet the total nutritional needs of pets, the most notable being "Milk Bones". The only way I know to be certain that treats do this is to look for a statement on the bag that says the food meets the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) standards. It would surprise me if many of the treat companies get this approval. Of course, Milk Bones would be hard on your older poodle with teeth problems. I suspect that the treats probably are high in salt or fat or some other thing that makes them taste good and be less than ideal as a food. Despite this, if you keep them to a small amount, they are probably not a major problem (less than 10% of the diet). Many dogs like carrots. These make a nice treat with some nutritional value. Green beans and similar foods also are OK if your dogs like them and are probably better than commercial treats. But maybe less satisfying. I wish I knew more about this subject. I'll have to go to the store and look at the treats and see if I can figure out which ones are the better ones.

Mike Richards, DVM

Rawhides, safe?

Q: My 10 month old shih tzu is not a very aggressive chewer--but she loves rawhide. I've heard some people had dogs who had all kinds of digestive problems. She has all kinds of other chewing toys--but really loves rawhide. I'm afraid she'll have stomach problems.-- Also she has a bed made of fleece (like lambswool). She tends to dig in it and then eats the fuzz. Can this also be harmful --like getting a lump of this stuff in her stomach??

A: I have been in practice for 18 years and I have only treated one dog that I remember for problems associated with ingestion of rawhide. This dog swallowed one of the formed rawhide sticks whole. This caused her to begin vomiting and it continued long enough that we surgically removed the rawhide chew toy. I do not consider this to be a high risk and give my dogs rawhide chew toys (but I do have to admit that I avoid the pressed rawhide sticks because of that problem).

It is interesting to me that a number of veterinarians I have spoken with do say that they have seen problems associated with these toys. Their experience differs from mine. I practice in a rural area and sometimes I think that I just don't have enough patients to see all the problems that vets who practice in more crowded areas do. Still, my personal experience is that rawhides appear to be a reasonably safe chew toy.

When dogs chew really fuzzy toys or objects it seems to wear their teeth down sooner. The fibers sometimes build up between the gums and teeth, too. I haven't yet seen many digestive problems from these things, either. I do have at least one or two dogs that have some vomiting episodes that relate to eating wool or fuzzy fabrics.

Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...