We remain open to provide care for your pets. We are following the direction of government and regulatory authorities and have implemented hospital and visit protocols to keep both you and our team safe. For regular updates on our hours and visit protocols, please follow our social media platforms.

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Grain Free Diets

With all the stories and posts in the media recently about grain-free diets and their link to heart disease, we have attempted to summarize the most current information available on the subject. The simple answer is, there is no simple answer.

The issue came to light when veterinary cardiologists in the US, Canada, Israel and Austria began noticing a dramatic increase in the number of dogs they were diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. The cardiologists reported the emerging trend to the FDA, including the dietary information they collected as part of the dogs’ medical history. In July of 2018, the FDA released a statement that they were beginning an investigation into the potential link between diet and dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a condition where the heart muscle becomes stretched and thin, reducing the heart’s ability to circulate blood through the body. It can result in congestive heart failure, an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. There are multiple breeds that have a genetic predisposition to DCM, including giant breed dogs like Great Danes and Irish wolfhounds, Dobermen Pinschers, Portuguese water dogs, boxers and Cocker spaniels. Most notably about these recently diagnosed cases were being seen in breeds of dogs that do not commonly develop the disease.

With the collected data, the FDA determined that the most common factor in these cases was the use of non-traditional diets, specifically boutique, exotic-ingredient and grain-free diets (BEG diets). The most common carbohydrate sources found were legumes, including peas and lentils. There were a variety of protein sources, the most common of which was chicken and lamb.

Initially, it was thought that diet-related taurine deficiency was the culprit in the rise of DCM cases. Recently it has been determined that this is not always the case. The investigation has determined that affected dogs fall into three categories:

1. Dogs on BEG diets with normal blood taurine levels
2. ‘Typical’ breeds predisposed to developing DCM
3. Diet associated DCM with taurine deficiency

At this point, it is unknown whether it is a nutrient deficiency, yet to be identified toxin or interactions between certain ingredients that are increasing some dogs’ risk of developing DCM. Current research is ongoing to determine the underlying cause of this complex problem. In the meantime, we recommend that you contact your regular veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s health or diet. Particularly if you notice signs of congestive heart failure such as a change in energy level or appetite, a sudden intolerance to exercise or to begins to cough.

For more reliable information regarding pet nutrition, you can visit Dr. Lisa Freeman’s blog at the Tufts University website. Dr. Freeman is a veterinary nutritionist with over 20 years of experience who has been actively involved in the investigation of this issue. You can also read the FDA’s statement on the link between certain diets and canine DCM, which has detailed information on their investigation of the issue.

Written by: Dr. Sadie Griffin, DVM

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Does your feline have extra toes? The history behind Polydactyl Cats

Most cats have 18 toes; five toes on each of their front feet, and four on the back.  My cat, Mandy Pawtinkin, is blessed with 22 toes.  She has a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (Greek for ‘many digits’).  It is a genetic mutation that causes cats to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws.

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COVID-19: Additional measures we are taking

Dear Clients,

Due to the close contact that our work requires, we have taken additional measures to protect you and our team while providing care for your furry family members.

The following changes are effective as of Monday, March 23, 2020:

1. We are currently operating a "closed waiting room" policy to protect our clients and staff. When you arrive, please remain in your vehicle and use your cell phone to call us at 902.422.8595. We will take a history of your pet over the phone, and bring your pet into the clinic for an examination with the veterinarian. Once the examination is finished, we will call to discuss our recommended treatment plan over the phone and then return to your vehicle with your pet. Please ensure your pet has a properly fitted collar or is in a secure carrier. Please remove any additional clothing or blankets prior to our staff handling our patients to minimize risk to our team.

2. We are still OPEN but are now working in two shifts with reduced hours, reduced staff numbers and a need to close for extensive cleaning between shifts.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tuesday, Thursday: 1:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 2:00 pm.

3. If you are ordering food or medications, please allow 2-4 business days as our suppliers are dealing with increased demand and are trying to fill orders as quickly as possible. We will advise you as soon as your order arrives. Please call us when you arrive to pick up your order, but do not enter the hospital. Our staff will bring your order to your car and take payment over the phone. You can also use our online store and have your food delivered directly to your home. To sign up for the online store, visit our website.

Following the recommendations of our government and medical experts, we are doing our best to practice social distancing within the constraints of our roles. As such, we have taken measures to avoid both contracting and facilitating the spread of this virus. You may see our team members wearing additional protective gear when interacting with our clients and patients.

Thank you for helping us be diligent for everyone's safety. As we have heard from all levels of government, the situation is fluid and any updates will be provided as changes occur.

- Your dedicated team at Halifax Veterinary Hospital