The FDA Has Linked 16 Popular Dog Food Brands to Canine Heart Disease

iStock/Photoboyko
iStock/Photoboyko

A new report from the Food and Drug Administration makes navigating the pet food aisle more complicated for dog owners. As The New York Times reports, the FDA has linked 16 popular dog food brands to canine heart disease—many of which bill themselves as healthier options.

The FDA traced adverse cardiovascular symptoms in dogs to many grain-free pet foods that replace ingredients like wheat and corn with peas, lentils, legume seeds, or potatoes. The brands included in the study—listed in descending order of most related heart disease cases—included Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

Products from these brands are often marketed as "wholesome," "high-protein," and "all-natural" alternatives to conventional dog food. But the new report from the FDA shows that a grain-free diet can be potentially harmful to a dog's health. Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 560 reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that's typically seen in larger dog breeds and can lead to heart failure. Of those cases, 119 of them were fatal. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy is believed to be partly genetic, but according to the administration, many of the dogs they studied were not genetically predisposed towards the condition. The likely culprit behind their diagnoses was diet.

"We understand the concern that pet owners have about these reports: the illnesses can be severe, even fatal, and many cases report eating 'grain-free' labeled pet food," the FDA stated in the report. "The FDA is using a range of science-based investigative tools as it strives to learn more about this emergence of DCM [dilated cardiomyopathy] and its potential link to certain diets or ingredients."

Makers of grain-free pet food claim that kibble made from corn and wheat doesn't reflect the diet of dogs' wild ancestors, and is therefore bad for them. Canine heath experts say this is a myth: Wild canids like wolves ingest grains in the stomachs of the herbivores they hunt. What's more, grains contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that dogs can benefit from.

Regardless of a dog's diet, pet owners should be aware of the symptoms of canine dilated cardiomyopathy. A dog that exhibits decreased energy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.

[h/t The New York Times]

Paula the Two-Toed Sloth Is Officially the Oldest Sloth in Captivity

Sleeping two-toed sloth.
Sleeping two-toed sloth.
tane-mahuta/iStock via Getty Images

For many sloths, surviving a trip to the ground is an impressive achievement. As the BBC reports, a two-toed sloth living in a German zoo has done something even more monumental: Guinness World Records confirms that Paula the sloth has officially been deemed the world's oldest sloth at age 50.

Born in South America, Paula has lived at the Halle Zoo in central Germany since she was at least 2 years old. For nearly half her life, zookeepers thought Paula was male. It wasn't until 1995 that an ultrasound scan revealed her true sex and her name was changed from Paul to Paula.

The zoo chose June 14 as the date to mark Paula's birthday, and on June 14, 2019, the sloth celebrated half a century on Earth. Two-toed sloths typically live about 20 years in the wild and 30 to 40 years in zoos. At 50 years old, Paula now holds the record for oldest sloth in captivity, and likely the world.

The zoo staff credits Paula's longevity to having a stable, caring home. If her genes played any role, they won't be passed down to future generations: Paula doesn't have any offspring. After discovering that he was really a she, the zoo tried pairing Paula with male breeding partners. Though she became pregnant three times, her cubs didn't survive.

After a long and interesting life, Paula has earned her place as one of the most beloved animals at the Halle Zoo. Her caretakers showed their appreciation on her birthday by making her a special meal of cooked maize and vegetables—her favorite foods.

[h/t BBC]

‘Soft and Cuddly’ Venomous Puss Caterpillars Have Been Spotted in at Least 3 States

Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The puss caterpillar is cute, cuddly, and coming to ruin your day.

USA Today reports that the highly venomous creature, also known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, or asp, has recently been spotted in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. Underneath its furry coat are tiny, potent spines that break off and attach themselves to your skin, causing excruciating pain and creating a hematoma, a bruise-like wound under your skin where blood has leaked from blood vessels.

According to University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, the caterpillar is dangerous partly because the sting of those spines becomes more painful over time. “It builds for a long time in a frightening way. No one expects stings to gain in impact or discomfort, and these will,” he told USA Today. “It packs quite a wallop.”

For one victim in Dade City, Florida, even medically administered morphine didn’t alleviate her agony. “It felt like someone was drilling into my bones,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I cried and pleaded with God for hours to make it stop.”

puss caterpillar
going on going on, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

If one does happen to inch its way onto you, curb the instinct to flail about or swat at random—trying to brush off the adorable nightmare just increases the possibility of those sinister spines sticking to your skin. Instead, have someone carefully and calmly remove the insect with a twig or a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. Then, take a shower and wash your clothes to minimize further exposure to leftover spines.

As traumatizing as the experience sounds, your chances of meeting one of these fun-sized villains are hearteningly slim. Wagner explains that they’re particularly scarce above the Mason-Dixon line, and not even very common in southern states, where they’re usually spotted.

In short, this is just another scientific reason why you should stick to petting dogs.

[h/t USA Today]

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