Pet Nutrition

Pet Nutrition

What Should I Feed My Pet?
There are so many options for pet food these days and it’s hard to make a confident decision about what to feed your pet. This article will answer some common questions about pet food and help you be more informed about the different options for pet food that are currently on the market.

What is AAFCO?

AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO helps to regulate the sale and distribution of our pet food. AAFCO handles pet food recalls and also makes sure that pet food is formulated appropriately and safely for your pet to consume it. Always check the nutritional adequacy statement on your bag of pet food to see if conforms to the AAFCO nutrient profiles or feeding protocols. For more information about AAFCO visit






Does my pet need a grain free diet?

There are not many conditions in pets that are solved by grain free diets. It’s a common misconception that grains are “bad” for pets or that pets are allergic to grains found in the diet. Grains can actually be good for our pets due to the amount of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and fiber they provide to the diet. When grain is left out of a diet other ingredients are increased, or substituted, to make the diet balanced. Therefore, this could mean that the diet is higher in fat and calories, or that refined grains are added as opposed to whole grains, which ultimately makes the food less nutritious for your pet.


I think my pet may have a food allergy. What should I do?

Food allergies are relatively uncommon in feline and canine patients. It can be difficult to determine that a pet has a food allergy and oftentimes veterinarians come to the conclusion based on the appearance of the patient’s skin, ruling out other common skin issues, and the history of what has or has not worked in the past to resolve the patient’s skin issues. When our patients are determined to have a food allergy it is usually to the protein source of the food. The most common protein source used in pet food is chicken, and therefore chicken is the most common food allergy in our pets. If you think your pet may have a food allergy it is best to contact your veterinarian rather than trying new diets on your own.









I’d like to feed my pet a homemade diet – is this a good idea?

It is extremely difficult to balance a diet for your pet appropriately. There are many micronutrients added to pet food that are required at certain levels for the health and wellbeing of your pet. With balanced pet food diets they account for this, however when we make homemade diets it is hard to get these nutrients in the food and difficult to provide them at the appropriate levels. If the food is unbalanced for these certain nutrients then your pet can develop several health conditions that could create permanent or long term damage. It’s best to feed your pet balanced pet food that is made for their specific nutrient requirements, however if you feel it is necessary for your pet to have a homemade diet you will have to contact a board certified veterinary nutritionist.


Should my pet be eating a prescription diet?

Prescription or therapeutic diets are made for a multitude of conditions. These diets are not available over the counter as they require a prescription written by your veterinarian. Common issues that prescription diets are used for are kidney disease, chronic skin issues, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and even weight management.







My pet won’t take their medication. Is it OK to give it in something?

A lot of medications are not flavored and owners can often have a difficult time getting these medications to their pets. You can try administering these pills in pill pockets, which are marketed for this specifically, however you can also try some healthy treats for your pet – banana slices are a great alternative to less healthier options such as high in fat peanut butter or cheese and high sodium treats like deli meat.

Contact Cheat Lake Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s personalized nutrition plan!

Written by Jodi Richardson, MPH, DVM


Pharmacy Students


Meet West Virginia University School of Pharmacy students Cameron Turner & Ethan Roy.  They will be doing their 4th year rotation here at Cheat Lake Animal Hospital.

Cameron is from Pertersbrg, WV. He enjoys hiking, food & travel. He has 2 dogs & 2 cats. He would like to work at a community pharmacy after he graduates.

Ethan is from Harman, WV. He has 1 cat. He enjoys food & playing guitar. He would also like to work at a community pharmacy after he graduates.


Canine Influenza

Canine Flu: What Do Dog Owners Need to Know?   

Vet Editorial by Dr. Ginny Mule    


The 2017-2018 influenza (flu) season has been making headlines as one of the worst in recent history for people. As of February 23rd, 2018 the CDC is reporting elevated levels of flu activity, and there have been a total of 97 pediatric deaths due to the influenza virus across the country. This, in addition to the recent emergence of canine influenza as a disease of importance in dogs, has a lot of pet owners worried, but should they be? The goal of this blog post is to provide a broad overview of canine influenza- what we know, what we don’t know, and how best to keep the canines in your life happy and healthy.


Author’s note- there have been no diagnosed cases of canine influenza in the greater Morgantown area, but many surrounding states as well as greyhound racing tracks in southern West Virginia have experienced outbreaks.


What is canine influenza virus?

Canine flu is caused by an “influenza A” virus of either the H3N8 or H3N2 strains. It is a respiratory disease, similar to the forms of influenza that circulate in people, but at this time the specific virus infecting dogs has NOT been documented to infect people. At this time, there are no influenza viruses that can be transmitted from people to dogs, either. It is believed that the H3N8 strain, first identified in 2004, originally mutated from an equine influenza virus. The H3N2 virus seems to have evolved separately, first being identified in a Chicago outbreak in 2015. Dogs infected with canine influenza virus show clinical signs such as sneezing, fever, lethargy, and coughing. In most cases, the disease is self-limiting and resolves with simple, outpatient care in 2-3 weeks, but in some rare cases, dogs require hospitalization for pneumonia. Unlike the human flu, which is usually confined to winter months canine flu outbreaks happen year-round.









Most dogs recover from canine flu with just rest and supportive care.


How do dogs get canine flu?

The canine influenza virus is most commonly transmitted by contact with infectious respiratory secretions through barking, coughing, and sneezing in proximity to other dogs. It can also be spread by contaminated objects, called fomites, such as clothing, food bowls, and medical equipment. So far, the majority of outbreaks have occurred where large numbers of dogs congregate- most commonly dog shows and greyhound race tracks. Although there have been no specific outbreaks associated with boarding kennels, doggie daycares, or dog parks, these environments do present a risk because of high numbers of congregating dogs.


What should I do if my dog is exhibiting signs of canine flu?

The canine flu shares a lot of clinical signs with other respiratory diseases such as kennel cough. If your dog is showing respiratory symptoms, we recommend that you make an appointment with your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. While your dog is coughing or sneezing, refrain from bringing them to dog parks, daycare, or places where they are going to interact with other dogs. When you call to make an appointment, please be sure to tell the receptionist what clinical signs your dog is having (coughing, sneezing, lethargy, discharge) so that appropriate steps can be taken to prevent transmission to other pets. After doing a physical examination, your veterinarian can determine which medical tests are appropriate and what treatments are necessary for your dog.


Is there a vaccine?

There are currently vaccines available for both known strains of canine influenza. A dog must receive a series of two shots, distanced at 3-4 weeks apart, to receive the best immunity. The vaccine must then be boostered annually to provide continued protection. The canine influenza vaccine, like most human flu vaccines, is not fully protective against infection. Vaccinated dogs can still become sick, and even contagious to other dogs, but are expected to experience milder clinical signs and a shorter disease duration.

Should I vaccinate my dog?

This is a difficult question to answer; there is no across-the-board recommendation for every dog. If you are concerned about canine influenza, or think your dog is at risk, then vaccination is never a bad idea. Like other vaccines, there is some risk of adverse vaccine reactions, but the vast majority of dogs will not experience any side effects other than mild fatigue. At this time, Cheat Lake is NOT requiring the canine influenza virus for dogs boarded at our kennel, but we encourage you to discuss the risks and benefits with your veterinarian before boarding. Pet owners should definitely consider vaccinating if they participate in dog shows, agility competitions, or are otherwise in contact with large number of unknown dogs on a regular basis.


Please check back for updates on our recommendations and boarding vaccine requirements.

The information in this blog post was drawn mostly from the AVMA Canine Influenza FAQ page at and from Merck Animal Health at


Periodontal Disease

It’s that time of year again: February is National Pet Dental Health Month! Did you know that periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in both cats and dogs according the the American Veterinary Medical Association or AVMA. This condition is also completely preventable. Periodontal disease is inflammation or infection of the gums and is caused by accumulation of dental plaque. Clinical signs of dental disease can include bad breath, loss of appetite, dropping food, excessive drooling, bleeding gums, and loose or missing teeth. The dental plaque contains bacteria which can cause irritation to the gums. Over time, pets can accumulate more dental plaque and bacteria which could lead to bad breath, bleeding gums, severe infections, pain, and tooth or bone loss. The following chart describes the different stages of periodontal disease and clinical signs that occur during those stages.














To prevent the accumulation of the dental plaque, the teeth need to be cleaned regularly. Dental plaque can accumulate in matter of days; therefore, brushing daily is best. If brushing your pet’s teeth is not an option, there are many other products that help delay the progress of dental plaque. These products should be used daily to help reduce the build up of dental plaque. Luckily there are many great products available to owners including brushes and toothpaste, oral rinses, dental treats and diets.  

Many owners ask what products are best for their pet’s dental health. The Veterinary Oral Health Council or VOHC endorses veterinary dental products that have been tested for their ability to reduce the accumulation of plaque and/or calculus.  Look for veterinary dental products with the VOHC seal of approval or follow the link to get a complete list of dog and cat veterinary dental products.










Additionally, even with daily brushing or dental care at home, most pets will eventually require professional dental cleanings. These professional cleanings are very similar to dental cleanings in their human counterparts. However, dogs and cats need to be anesthetized to perform a thorough dental cleaning and polishing, dental x-rays, as well as probing the gums to look for evidence of advance disease. The veterinarian can surgically extract any loose or fractured teeth identified during the dental procedure so patients do not have to return for an additional procedure.



If your pet is showing any signs of periodontal disease please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian today to discuss the next steps to improve pet dental health.

~ Becky Harvey DVM, MPH  



***To celebrate Dental Health Month, Cheat Lake Animal Hospital will be offering $10 off any dental examination and 10% any dental procedure from February 1 though March 15, 2018.***


Ticks…Tis the Season?

The weather is getting warmer and our minds are turning toward fun outdoor activities this time of year.  Our furry friends tend to spend much more time outside as well, raising our concern for “buggy” encounters.  While warmer weather does bring an increase in insect activity, truth be told fleas, and more importantly, potentially fatal ticks are a concern year round.  Year-round prevention is mandatory to prevent tick-borne disease.  Ticks actively seek a blood meal when temperatures exceed 40 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving you and your pet at risk.  With the extreme jump in tick-borne diseases in our area, we must change our thinking about tick prevention and tick-borne diseases.  The number of diagnosed Lyme cases has skyrocketed in the states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. 


Consider the following data from the Companion Animal Parasite Council in WV and PA, as well as in our two most local counties:


2016 2012
West Virginia 2165 (1 in 15 tested) 1015 (1 in 20 tested)
Monongalia County, WV 236 (1 in 20 tested) 40 (1 in 43 tested)
Pennsylvania 41,067 (1 in 8 tested) 23,508 (1 in 8 tested)
Fayette County, PA 283 (1 in 13 tested) 20 (1 in 13 tested)


As you can see Lyme disease is on the rise.  Along with Lyme disease we are also seeing more Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis in our area.  There is some good news.  We do have some very effective flea and tick products at our disposal.  There is a product for every pet and client preference.  Some suggestions are newer oral flea and tick preventatives such as Nexgard, Simparica and Bravecto.  Effective topical choices (which include repellant properties) are Advantix and Vectra3D.  A long lasting Seresto collar is also an option.  Unfortunately ticks can still be seen and can even attach with these products being utilized.  The good news is that in the estimated 24-48 hours it takes for disease transmission to occur, the tick should die.  Lyme vaccination is also a strong recommendation here at CLAH.  This vaccine protects against missed monthly prevention but should not be considered as a substitute for tick prevention.  Any further questions or concerns can be discussed with your veterinarian.

~Chuck Wolfe, DVM