My Pet World: Eggs, salmonella and your pet food

Q: Recently, you said there were no eggs in pet foods, but I believe the pet food I have contains eggs, or at least that's what the package says. — B.D.

Q: So far, I haven't seen any correction for your erroneous "eggs" statement. Pet owners nationwide want to trust your advice and knowledge. Can you please provide a correction? — C.C.

A: About a month ago, several readers inquired if pet food recalls were related to the recent well-publicized recalls of eggs, also due to salmonella contamination. I pointed out that recent pet food recalls — also due to a potential threat of salmonella — were unrelated to the egg recalls. I was right about that. I added that pet foods do not contain eggs as an ingredient, and I was wrong about that, as many of you pointed out.

"If you're interested to know if your pet food includes eggs, check the label," says veterinary nutritionist Dr. Claudia Kirk, head of small animal clinical sciences University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville. "If not listed, it's not in the product."

Concerning eggs in pet foods, Kirk adds, "Yes, it is a potential source of salmonella but little risk when (the food is) processed or cooked. Both canning and extrusion easily kills salmonella. Pet food companies treat egg products and meat products as potentially contaminated so they are probably safer than the human foods. We see more salmonella concern with pig ears, hoof chews, and rawhides than anything."

While most pet foods and treats don't contain eggs, many do. I regret the error.

Q: We've had dogs our entire lives, but now that we're older do you think we're past the age of having a dog? We're in pretty good health but well into our 80s. We want to be fair to any dog, and what if your health slips? Our little Pixie, a Bichon Frise-mix, passed away six months ago. You'd think that after 53 years of marriage we wouldn't be lonely for a dog, but we are. — N.H.

A: "You know, this letter is so sweet and so important," says Dori Villalon, vice president of animal protection for the Denver-based American Humane Assn. "I've had people adopt dogs who have caretakers. Maybe a part of the reason you're in such good health is that you've had dogs all these years. Dogs are good for people of any age. Obviously, a high-energy young dog or a very large dog might not be the best match. But a more mature dog, a smaller dog who likes to just hang out might be the perfect match. And no matter how old you are, it's always a good idea to consider making arrangements for our pets to insure their future if something happens to us. I don't believe there's a magic age that makes any of us too old to have a dog."

October happens to be Adopt-A-Dog month. Consider adoption, and learn more at http://www.americanhumane.org. As long as you have love to give, you'll find the right dog who can offer 10 times that love back.

Q: While we were on vacation in Wisconsin, our dog had an encounter with a porcupine. He had so many quills that the vet had to anesthetize him to pull them all out. Our dog has always been a bit aggressive, but he's gotten worse since this incident. Now he snaps at some people, even some who've tried to play with his ball. He also attacked a dog. Any advice? — M.S.

A: It's not likely your dog's aggression is related to his close encounter with the porcupine, according to legendary behaviorist and author, Dr. Ian Dunbar (www.dogstardaily.com). "Basically, you need to begin a (training) program where the dog comes to you, sits and gets treats — first in the presence of people he knows, and then begin to bring in strangers," says Dunbar. "However, doing this lure-reward training takes some time and it's important to be sure everyone is safe, so I'm all for bringing in professional help to demonstrate and to further access your dog."

Dunbar, of Berkeley, says to deal with the aggression toward people before the dog-to-dog issue. "If you intercede now, the prognosis is excellent," he notes. "If you don't get help, the problem will worsen. Every time your dog snaps, people naturally back off, and that's reinforcing to the dog."

If you hadn't mentioned that your dog was aggressive before the porcupine incident, I'd be more concerned about a cause/effect with the porcupine. Still, since it's that common for dogs to be aggressive toward both people and other dogs (usually it's one or the other), see your vet to determine if there may be a physical explanation.

To find a veterinary behaviorist near you, check out http://www.dacvb.org; a veterinarian interested in animal behavior, http://www.avsabonline.org; or a dog behavior consultant, http://www.iaabc.org.

Q: I found a kitten at my door. What should I do? I really don't want to add another cat to my band of four cats and three children. I'm a single mom and just don't have the time or money. I'd say the kitten is about 4 months old, and she seems very sweet. We're keeping her in the garage for now. Our neighbor says that's cruel and suggests letting her back outside. What do you think? — B.D.

A: If you can possibly swing it financially, have the kitten checked by a veterinarian. Don't bring her anywhere near your existing cats until you've tested her for feline leukemia and made sure she's free of parasites. Most shelters will successfully adopt kittens.

Since this pet is so young and cute (aren't all kittens?), you may be able to enlist a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbor to take her — but not the neighbor who thinks she should stay outside. If you can find a home indoors and a family to love this kitten, you'd be giving her a far better life than being outside. Thanks for caring enough to do what you can. If you do let the kitten back outside (which I don't suggest), please have her spayed or she'll soon have a litter of kittens.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to petworld@stevedale.tv. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.

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