Top 5 Veterinary Stories of the Past Year

From alternative medicine for itchy dogs to the not-at-all-delicate subject of canine flatulence, these are the pet stories that stand out for me.

Apoquel is an effective alternative to corticosteroids in treating allergic skin diseases. By: dannydansoy

I’d like to share a few news stories from the past few months that you may find interesting — and that I hope will help your pet.

But before we begin, here’s the biggest story: We don’t have all the answers. Do not trust people who say they have the answer. They don’t.

1. Xylitol Found in Some Peanut and Nut Butters

Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol sweetener, is very toxic to pets. It causes severe low blood sugar and liver necrosis. I have always associated it with chewing gum and sugar-free candies.

Now it has been added to certain peanut butters. Many people who have pets use peanut butter as a treat or to hide medication so their dog can gobble it up, but be sure to check the label. Even a small amount of xylitol can threaten your pet’s life.

2. Apoquel, a Fascinating Drug for Allergic Skin Disease

Apoquel is a new alternative to corticosteroids for itchy dogs. I have been cautiously using it for about 2 years now with good success. Although we are still not sure about long-term use and side effects, it appears that Apoquel helps reduce allergic skin disease without the deleterious effects of corticosteroids. As with any “new” drug, we use it with caution.

This drug has been difficult to get for many veterinarians because demand has surpassed supply. If you have a dog with allergic skin disease, this drug might be a big help.

3. Fear-Free Veterinary Practices

We know certain pets are terrified by vet visits. There is a huge movement to encourage vets and veterinary staff members to address our pets’ fear and create a fear-free culture.

As we try to do our part, you should alert your vet if you have a fearful pet. Drugs, behavior modification and early intervention might turn terrified Timmy into confident Carl.

If you or your pet has an unsettling experience at your vet’s office, don’t let it go. Call your vet back and try to figure out how the next visit might go better.

Vets are working to create fear-free environments for animals at clinics. By: captainbagpuss

4. Pet Food Facts and Fiction

The weekly barrage of food questions usually goes something like this:

  • “What food do you recommend?”
  • “Should it be grain-free?”
  • “Gluten is bad, right?”
  • “I want to feed a raw diet.”
  • “You must have a favorite food, right?”

Nothing makes me feel more inadequate than answering food questions. This is because there are no right or wrong answers.

The variety of pet foods on the market is overwhelming. There’s high-end, low-end, natural, grain-free, blah blah blah. And then there are the recalls. Some of the most respected brands have unfortunately suffered recalls. High-end food does not ensure safety.

The pet food industry is exactly that — an industry. And it can be a big, bad industry, preying on us all. You want to do the best thing for your pet. They want to sell pet food. Remember that.

5. How Bad Are Dog Farts?

I suppose I should call it “flatulence.” But do my clients come in and complain about their dog’s “flatulence”? No. They call it farting.

If your dog is passing gas, is it just annoying (because you need to clear the room), or is it an actual sign of disease?

There’s no easy answer to this question. Talk with your vet and discuss your dog’s diet and other GI signs or symptoms. I know the simple phrase “dog farts” breaks people up, but it may not be so funny if something’s really wrong.

Do We Know the Answers?

As I said earlier, veterinarians don’t have all the answers. We try, but our excellence in veterinary medicine tells us to stop, wait, think and get evidence.

Find a vet you trust and ask questions.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 13, 2018.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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