Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thyroid Dysfunction as a Cause of Aggression

Thyroid Dysfunction as a Cause of Aggression in Dogs and Cats

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In human medicine, behavioral and psychological changes associated with thyroid dysfunction were noted in the nineteenth century. The behavioral abnormalities seen in the hyperthyroid cat have been well described in the literature, and mimic closely the restlessness, insomnia and irritability or aggression described in humans with thyrotoxicosis. Approximately 80% of hyperthyroid cats are hyperactive, while 10-25% are reported to be aggressive, Cats, as well as people, may experience the rarer manifestation of apathetic thyrotoxicosis, characterized by lethargy and depression. This is seen in approximately 10% of feline cases. Hyperthyroid cats are rarely presented to the veterinarian for behavioral signs, Perhaps because aggression is primarily wen when the cat is restrained, we as a profession are more likely to experience this aspect of the disease than the cats’ owners, Treating the underlying thyroid problem generally resolves the behavioral problems however, and because onset is often insidious, it is only after the endocrine imbalance has been addressed that the owners appreciate the deterioration in their animal’s behavior.

While much has been written about the behavioral signs of hyperthyroidism in cats, the hypothyroid dog has been depicted, from a behavioral standpoint, as being lethargic and mentally dull. The hypothyroid human patient has been reported to show a wider range of behavioral symptoms. Particularly in the early stages of the disease reduced cognitive function and concentration together with impaired short-term memory may be confused with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and in one study 66% of patients diagnosed with ADBD were found to be hypothyroid. Supplementing their thyroid levels was largely curative. Visual and auditory hallucinations may result from altered perception and have been misdiagnosed as schizophrenia or psychosis. Other behavioral symptoms have included fear – ranging from mild anxiety to frank paranoia, mood swings and aggression.

Scattered reports of aggression and hyperactivity in hypothyroid dogs suggested that dogs also might exhibit a wider repertoire of behaviors in response to low thyroid levels. Hypothyroidism is the most prevalent endocrine disease in dogs. In a 1994 survey conducted by the American Kennel Club of its parent breed clubs, hypothyroidism was found to be the health issue of greatest concern overall, as well as for each of the seven groups except for the toy dog group, where it was rated fourth in importance. Despite the debate concerning diagnosis the condition is widespread throughout the canine, and probably the equine, population.

In dogs, as in humans, behavioral signs often precede the more traditional skin, coat and metabolic changes characteristic of the condition. To diagnose hypothyroidism we rely upon the six analyte panel offered by Antech Diagnostics, Irvine CA (as well as Michigan State University). These panels are interpreted for us by W. Jean Dodds DVM of Hemopet. Following her lead, we believe that truly euthyroid dogs in most breeds should have hormonal levels falling in the upper half of previously accepted normal ranges, This is particularly true of dogs under 18 months of age. We feel that the panel gives a clearer picture of overall thyroid function. Indeed of the cases treated so far only about 40% would have been considered hypothyroid on a standard T4 test, the rest would mostly fall in the borderline category. Some cases in which elevated autoantibody levels indicate autoimmune disease would otherwise have been considered thyroid normal at the time of presentation.

Numerator = Thyroid dysfunction; Denominator = Aberrant behavior Some dogs had more than one aberrant behavior Data taken from 319 cases representing 63 breeds W.J. Dodds DVM unpublished data As of January this year, 319 cases of dogs with a variety of behavior problems had been presented to Dr. Dodds for thyroid evaluation. Of these almost two thirds were diagnosed as being hypothyroid.

{The following data are provided by Dr. Jean Dodds (1/4/98) and were not included in the presentation by Dr. Aronson.}

{Out of 13 Bearded Collies (11 in Dr. Dodd’s group, 2 in Dr. Aronson’s), 10 were hypothyroid and exhibiting significant aggression. Two cases had hyperactivity with major attention deficit-type behavior and were hypothyroid. One case with bizarre erratic behavior had very normal levels of thyroid and I advised retesting in 6-12 months. The owners couldn’t cope with the dog as an unruly pet, and I fear gave it away or put it to sleep.

Of my 10 cases with hypothyroidism there was considerable or nearly total improvement in their behavior once thyroid supplementation was given and dosage stabilized. This usually took about 6 weeks, but clear benefit was noted by the owners in 2-14 days. One case has since slipped back a little, but became better again once thyroid dosage was increased slightly. I am very encouraged by these cases. Its particularly remarkable in cases of working obedience dogs, as their owners are very aware of performance nuances – such as changes in power of concentration which wanes with thyroid imbalance and is restored on supplement. This latter comment applies in general and not to the beardie cohort per se.}

Our figures have been similar, but we have only submitted blood on dogs which we suspect might be hypothyroid based on other signs of disease, breed or combination of behavioral signs. Interestingly, although hypothyroidism has classically been thought to primarily affect bitches, the breakdown by sex shows more male hypothyroid behavioral cases. However, more male dogs are presented for behavioral problems. Sixty three pure breeds as well as mixed breeds were represented in these cases, Table I represents data for the seven most commonly represented breeds as well as mixed breeds, and the four most commonly reported behavioral problems. The numerator represents the number of animals which were hypothyroid and the denominator the number showing aberrant behavior.

There were 177 cases reported to exhibit aggression (type unspecified), 43 with seizures; 34 fearful; and 33 hyperactive. While some breeds are clearly more prone to thyroid disease than others, our data include two Bichon Frises which both proved to be hypothyroid and responded behaviorally quite well to thyroid replacement therapy, although this is not a breed which has shown much evidence of hypothyroidism in the past. Breed alone should not rule out hypothyroidism as a possible cause of a behavioral problem, although clearly if a dog is of a breed with a higher incidence of the disease one’s level of suspicion will be higher.

Initially at Tufts we were looking for a hypothyroid – aggression/hyperactivity connection. Aggression is the most common behavior problem among dogs presented to our clinic for treatment. While some of the cases showed more characteristic skin and coat problem or obesity in many cases the dog appeared healthy apart from its behavioral problems. Many of these cases fell into two categories.

1. Young dogs which were aggressive and whose owners often complained their dog could or would not listen/concentrate and/or repeatedly failed obedience classes.

2. Older dogs for whom aggression was a new and totally unexpected behavior.

Treating the latter category brought reports of a return to youthful energy levels which the owners thought had gradually diminished purely because of the dog’s age, while the former suddenly were able to concentrate and learn commands. Dogs were evaluated over at least eight weeks following diagnosis of a thyroid problem. Most of these dogs were placed on behavior modification programs, and it was recommended that exercise should be increased, and dietary protein reduced. Some were fitted with Promise collars. Two dogs had previously received psychopharmacological treatment. In one case, the dog’s dominance was no longer controlled by 20mg q l2h fluoxetine and 40mg q 8h propranolol, thyroxine supplementation did not improve the dog’s behavior and it was euthanatized. In the other case a dog with fear and intraspecies aggression had not been helped with amitryptiline, and the dog was completely weaned from the drug after complete remission of its aggression on thyroxine.

Dogs were evaluated on a 6 point subjective scale by their owners (Table 2. Only the scoring system is shown below). Aggression was classified as dominance, fear, territorial, intraspecies, or predatory. Of the 57 cases of aggression treated with thyroxine replacement (levothyroxine sodium (Soloxine) at a dose of 0.1 mg/12-15# body weight q 12h, only one showed a worsening of aggression, 6 failed to respond and one showed less than 25% improvement. The remainder showed more than 25% improvement to complete resolution.

Data collected over the same period for 20 dogs with dominance aggression treated with behavior modification, exercise, diet and Promise Collars alone, showed that one dog was euthanatized for worsening behavior, two were placed after failure to improve or worsening of behavior, 3 failed to improve and 3 showed less than 25% improvement. Although the sample size is not large, the successful outcome of cases treated with thyroid replacement was significantly better than that of those treated with behavioral modification alone. We have also successfully treated one case where a hypothyroid horse exhibited intraspecies aggression with thyroid replacement. This horse had failed to respond to behavior modification or cyproheptidine.

Scoring Behavior Problems Medicated with Thyroid

-1 Problem became worse

0 No appreciable change

1 <25% improvement

2 >25, but <50% improvement

3 >50 but <75% improvement

4 >75% improved to completely resolved

After our initial success with aggressive dogs, we have looked at the role of hypothyroidism in other behavioral conditions. Although the sample size is too small to be conclusive, it would certainly seem worthwhile to look for an underlying thyroid deficiency in these cases. Similarly, other behavioral conditions have shown variable response to thyroid supplementation. We have not seen much improvement in those dogs we have treated with seizure-related disorders, although Dodds has found seizure activity to be responsive to thyroid replacement, however, our sample size is extremely small.

The mechanism whereby diminished thyroid function affects behavior is unclear. Hypothyroid patients have reduced cortisol clearance, and the constantly elevated levels of circulating cortisol mimic the condition of an animal in a constant state of stress, as well as suppressing TSH production and thereby further reducing T4 and T3 levels. In humans, and seemingly in dogs, mental function is impaired and the animal is likely to respond to stress in a stereotypical rather than a reasoned fashion. We have noted that the type of aberrant behavior exhibited by hypothyroid dogs tends to be typical of the behavioral problems seen for its breed, or predominant breed, rather than hypothyroidism producing a specific behavioral problem. Chronic stress in humans has been implicated in the pathogenesis of affective disorders such as depression. Major depression has, in turn, been shown in imaging studies to cause changes in neural activity or volume in the amygdala, prefrontal cortex and hippocampus – areas of the brain which regulate aggressive and other behaviors. The role of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin has been clearly demonstrated in aggressive pathways in the CNS. Hypothyroid rats have been shown to have both an increased turnover of serotonin; and dopamine receptors with an increased sensitivity to ambient neurotransmitter levels. Interestingly, several of the dogs which failed to respond to thyroid replacement or in which response was suboptimal have subsequently been treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants either without or with limited success. Given the far reaching effects of thyroid hormones throughout the body it is likely that these as well as other mechanisms are involved in its behavioral role.

Psychiatrists at Harvard Medical School have recently used low level thyroxine replacement for euthyroid and suboptimal thyroid normal patients with some success. They feel that the thyroid damps down the background noise in the brain, thereby enabling the patients to function better. In a limited number of cases where we have tried to boost dogs with suboptimal but normal thyroid levels into the optimal range, we have failed to achieve behavioral improvement. However, we have tried this in only a half dozen or so cases to date. Dodds reports some success using this strategy in a larger number of cases.

Case Study I.

Signalment: Seven-year old, 28kg, spayed female German Shepherd Dog

Problem: Fear aggression and intraspecies aggression. Previous treatment had included clorniprantine 25mg q 12h. (Note: this dose is too low to produce significant behavioral effect). No change was reported in problem behaviors, although the dog had behaved more affectionately with its owners. Owner is an obedience trainer, and extensive obedience training and following a behavior modification (desensitization and counterconditioning) program had not helped, The dog had to be muzzled when strangers came to the house or for walks off the owners’ property.

Physical Examination: Evidence of arthritis and hip dysplasia, otherwise the dog appeared healthy

Thyroid panel abnormalities: Total T3 86 ng/dl (normal 100-250, optimal 125-225); Total T4 1.39 pg/dl (normal1.5-4.5; optimal 3-5); Free T4 0.92ng/dl (normal1.0-4.0; optimal2-4).

Treatment: Soloxine (levothyroxine sodium) 0.4mg q 12h. Clomiprarnine dose dropped to 25mg q 24h before dog started thyroid replacement

Follow-up: Five days after dog started on thyroid replacement therapy the owner took it to a neighborhood park and let it play off leash with a number of dogs. She reported that the dog showed no aggression and it played like a puppy, including a game of tug-of-war over a stick played with a puppy. The dog showed no aggression. The dog also accepted and greeted appropriately strangers coming onto its property or encountered on walks. Several weeks later, the dog was no longer behaving like a puppy, but like a mature German Shepherd with arthritis. It showed appropriate aggression when other dogs acted aggressively towards it, or if they were too exuberant in their greeting. Inappropriate aggression has not returned over the succeeding twelve months. The dog has remained fit and active. Clomipramine has been completely withdrawn,

Case Study 2.

Problem: Aggression directed at owner, her husband and his teenage daughters from a previous marriage. The dog would growl and threaten if confronted over food, stolen objects, when woken, asked to move, or otherwise disturbed, particularly while it was sleeping in the owner’s bed. This behavior had been increasing over the previous year since the owner’s marriage, and at the time of presentation was occurring on at least a daily basis. Prior to that time there had been three isolated incidents of aggression when the dog was confronted over food or stolen objects either by the owner or children the dog knew well. The dog had never bitten. It was friendly with strangers, but did growl and threaten strange dogs occasionally.

Physical examination: The owner reported a 4kg weight gain in the dog over the previous 2 months. The dog also had a history of urinary incontinence, for which it had been receiving diethylstilbestrol (DES), and vaginitis. The dog was lethargic, with a poor, dull hair coat. Multiple open sores were apparent on the forepaws resulting from the dog licking and chewing – this was later attributed to atopy. Otherwise the dog appeared normal on physical examination.

CBC and Biochemical Profile: The only abnormality was severe hypercholesterolemia: 601 mg/dl; reference range. 110-314mg/dl.

Thyroid panel: Total T4, 14 nmol/L (reference range 5-50; optimal range 30-50); Total T3 0.0 nmol/L (normal 1.0 2.5; optimal 1.25-2.25); Free T4 15 pmol/L (normal 12-33; optimal 20-40); Free T3 5.1 pmol/L (normal 2.8-6.5; optimal 3.5-6.5); T4 Autoantibody10 (<20); T3 autoantibody 84 (< 10).

Follow-up.- The dog was placed on 0. 7mg levothyroxine sodium PO q 12h, and within a week aggressive behavior had decreased by 60-70%, Its aggression continued to decrease over subsequent weeks. Lethargy disappeared after about 6 weeks of thyroid replacement therapy. The dog had also lost all the weight it had gained, and skin and coat condition improved. There was a single incident in which the dog growled during these 5 weeks. The dog continued to receive DES. There were no further incidents of vaginitis. On two subsequent occasions the efficacy of the thyroxine in controlling the dog’s aggression was demonstrated. One time the dog did not swallow its morning pill. it spent the day sleeping, but growled when a family member approached its food bowl to feed it. On the second occasion the owner ran out of medication and the dog was not medicated for 48h, Within 24h aggression had returned to the same level it had been at prior to medication, After thyroxine supplementation was resumed aggression was extinguished over the subsequent 2-5days. Although the dog slept more during this period, it was not lethargic as it had been prior to treatment.

Discussion: While these are two of the more dramatic cases of hypothyroid aggression we have treated, they are illustrative of the response we have experienced. Metabolically, thyroid replacement takes about three weeks to be effective. Frequently, behavioral response is reported within the first week of treatment. Several owners also report dramatic resumption of previous aberrant behaviors if even a single pill is missed or not swallowed by the dog. Similarly, the horse mentioned earlier showed a rapid resumption of aggression when its dose was halved while its owner awaited the arrival of more medication. Hypothyroidism may be linked to a number of different behavioral conditions. Aberrant behavior may be one of the earliest signs of thyroid deficiency. The condition is clearly more prevalent in some breeds than in others, and a genetic predisposition is probably involved in the expression of the disease. However, environmental factors are probably also involved, and there have been numerous reports of owners and animals in the same household having thyroid dysfunction and/or other autoimmune diseases.

At Tufts we have seriously considered obtaining a thyroid panel on all dogs presented for evaluation, and we feel that it is a very good screen for a condition which may underlie a wide variety of behavioral problems, and one which is relatively easily and cheaply treated. It is our recommendation that hypothyroidism be considered as a rule out for dogs and horses showing inappropriate aggression. It should also be a rule out for dogs which show an inability to learn or concentrate on the owner, or for older dogs which have developed a personality change either rapidly or more gradually. It is probably a good rule out for dogs which exhibit fears or anxieties and possibly for some dogs with compulsive disorders.


1. Cameron DL, Crocker AD. The hypothyroid rat as a model of increased sensitivity to dopamine receptor agonists. Pharm Biachem & Behav,1990, 37:627-632.

2. Denicoff KD, Joffe RT, Lakschmanan MC, Robbins J, Rubinow DR. Neuropsychiatric manifestations of altered thyroid state. Am J Psychiatry, 1990, 147:94-99.

3. Dluhy RJ. The adrenal cortex in hypothyroidism. In Braverman LE, Utiger RD (eds) Werner and Ingbar’s The thyroid, a fundamental and clinical text (7th edition). Philadelphia. Lippincott-Raven, 1996:841-844.

4. Dodman NH, Mertens PA, Aronson LP. Aggression in two hypothyroid dogs, behavior case of the month. J Am Vet Med Assoc,1995, 207:1168-1171

5. Gibbs M. Correlations between hypothyroidism and cortisol in mental disorders. 1997 in prep

6. Hauser P, Zametkin AJ, Martinez P,et al. Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder in people with generalized resistance to thyroid hormone. NE JMed, 1993, 328:997-1001.

7. Herman JP, Cullinan WE. Neurocircuitry of stress: central control of the hypothalamo- pituitary-adrenocortical axis. TINS 1997, 20:78-84.

8. Henley WN, Chen X, Klettner C, Bellush LL, Notestine MA. Hypothyroidism increases serotonin turnover and sympathetic activity in the adult rat. Can J Fhysiol Pharmacol 1991;69-.205-210.

9. Joseph RJ, Peterson ME. Review and comparison of neuromuscular and central nervous system marifestations of hyperthyroidism in cats and humans. Prog Vet Neurol 1992, 3:114-119.

10. Uchida Y, Dodman N, DeNapoli J, Aronson L. Characterization and treatment of 20 canine dominance aggression cases. J Vet Med Sci 1997, 59:397-399.

11. Whybrow PC. Behavioral and psychiatric aspects of thyroto-xicosis. In Braverman LE, Utiger RD (eds) Werner and Ingbar’s The thyroid: a fundamental and clinical text (7th edition). Philadelphia. Lippincott-Ravm 1996:696-700.

12. Whybrow PC. Behavioral and psychiatric manifestations of hypothyroidism. In Braverman LE, Utiger RD (eds) Werner and Ingbar’s The thyroid- a fundamental and clinical text (7th edition). Philadelphia. Lippincott-Raven, 1996:866-870.

L.P. Aronson DVM & N.H. Dodman RVMS

Presented at the 43. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Veterinarmedizinischen Gesellschaft Fachgruppe Kleintierkrankheiten 29-31 August 1997 in HCC Hannover

Thyroid Dysfunction as a Cause of Aggression

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If you can start the day without caffeine,

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California Dog Law Maintaining A Public Nuisance

California Dog Law Maintaining A Public Nuisance

What is the California Dog Law Regarding Having An Aggressive Dog, Maintaining A Public Nuisance?

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One can be charged with a crime for allowing their dog to become a Public Nuisance under California Penal Codes sections 370 to 373a.

370. Anything which is injurious to health, or is indecent, or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community or neighborhood, or by any considerable number of persons, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway, is a public nuisance.

371. An act which affects an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, as specified in the last section, is not less a nuisance because the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals is unequal.

372. Every person who maintains or commits any public nuisance, the punishment for which is not otherwise prescribed, or who willfully omits to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

373a. Every person who maintains, permits, or allows a public nuisance to exist upon his or her property or premises, and every person occupying or leasing the property or premises of another who maintains, permits or allows a public nuisance to exist thereon, after reasonable notice in writing from a health officer or district attorney or city attorney or prosecuting attorney to remove, discontinue or abate the same has been served upon such person, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punished accordingly; and the existence of such nuisance for each and every day after the service of such notice shall be deemed a separate and distinct offense, and it is hereby made the duty of the district attorney, or the city attorney of any city the charter of which imposes the duty upon the city attorney to prosecute state misdemeanors, to prosecute all persons guilty of violating this section by continuous prosecutions until the nuisance is abated and removed.




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A MORAL IMPERATIVE. You don’t kill “your best friend” when the dog can be trained.

Doing the right thing is a reward in itself. Sometimes doing the right thing is a little scary at first, but people who do the right thing are usually always rewarded with a positive outcome.

service animals in sacramentoKILLING YOUR DOG is a huge mistake you may regret the rest of your life if you have a conscience.

Call DAVID BARON when other dog trainers, canine behaviorists and veterinarians say your dog cannot be trained and you should kill it.psychiatric service dogs sacramento

Killing anything is wrong and you may be asked to account for putting down a dog that loved you and counted on you, when you can keep your dog alive.

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People who do the right thing will always be able to look their children in the eye.

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Everyone has a camera on their cellphone. Either a dog trainer has 1000’s of photos and videos to substantiate the dog training actually works, or they do not.

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dog training sacramentoThere is a reason other dog trainers do not have pictures of dogs with farm animals.

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What is the best dog training method?


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It is not about which is a better or faster method.

We teach dog owners how to have wonderful relationship with their pets where there is a lot of petting, affection and hanging out together—without behavior problems.

The best dog training method is the one that actually works.  Before you spend a lot of money, you better make sure the dog training method actually works.

There is no in-between with VALIDITY. Something does what they say it can, or it does not.

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There is no in-between with INTEGRITY. Someone is really who they say they are, or they are not.

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Either someone can substantiate that the dog training method actually works or they cannot.  There is no in-between.

Either someone has 1000’s of photos of 100’s of dogs they trained to substantiate that it works, OR THEY DO NOT.  


If you are considering hiring a dog trainer in Sacramento or where you live, you need to ask if the dog training method will actually work with your dog, or make your dog’s behavior problems even worse.


If you think the gals at the park calling themselves dog trainers and bribing dogs with food or using shock collars for everything will work to get your dog trained or under control, hire them.  You will be happier with their dog training method and they charge a lot less than we do anyway.

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Legitimate dog training methods don’t bribe with food.  

Shock collars, a dog training tool of last resort, are not supposed to be a dog training method, nor a substitute for having a relationship.

Having a relationship is not about dominating or correcting your dog.

THINK ABOUT IT – David Baron is the only dog trainer in North America with 1000’s of photos of small dogs off-leash.

There is no time to run back in the house and get the treats before your dog runs in the street and gets run over by a car.

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Who wants a dog that won’t behave unless you bribe it with food anyway?

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Small breeds are usually more stubborn, defiant and harder to train than large breeds, especially if they have been spoiled.

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Food-Bribery does absolutely nothing to control bad puppy behavior.


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PRIVATE LESSONS work great and are effective 99% of the time.  Sometimes the level of training a dog needs surpasses what the owner is capable of achieving on their own and 

Board Training is a more appropriate option.

Most of our clients are MD’s, RN’s, teachers, business owners, police, fire and other professionals. Let us know if you need references or have other concerns.  





What Is Really In Dog Food?

WHAT IS REALLY IN DOFOODdog training sacramento Dog Food

The information contained in page report will reveal to you the shocking truth about what’s in your dog’s food. Did you know…

  • The maximum life span of a DOG is estimated to be about 27 years: Yet, the average dog lives only approximately 13 years?
  • The maximum life span of a CAT is estimated to be about 25-30 years: Yet, the average cat lives only approximately 14 years?

Pet Food Industry advertising promotes the idea that, to keep pets healthy, one must feed them commercially formulated pet foods. But such a diet has been proven to contribute to cancer, skin problems, allergies, hypertension, kidney and liver failure, heart disease and dental problems. Please read the information very carefully, as it can help you to increase your pet’s lifespan, overall health and daily well being.

  What Is Really in Dog Food

Plump whole chickens, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains, and all the wholesome nutrition your dog or cat will ever need.

These are the images pet food manufacturers promulgate through the media and advertising. This is what the $11 billion per year U.S. pet food industry wants consumers to believe they are buying when they purchase their products.

This report explores the differences between what consumers think they are buying and what they are actually getting. It focuses in very general terms on the most visible name brands — the pet food labels that are mass-distributed to supermarkets and discount stores — but there are many highly respected brands that may be guilty of the same offenses.

What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a market for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption,” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, esophagi, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.

Three of the five major pet food companies in the United States are subsidiaries of major multinational companies: Nestlé (Alpo, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Mighty Dog, and Ralston Purina products such as Dog Chow, ProPlan, and Purina One), Heinz (9 Lives, Amore, Gravy Train, Kibbles-n-Bits, Nature’s Recipe), Colgate-Palmolive (Hill’s Science Diet Pet Food). Other leading companies include Procter & Gamble (Eukanuba and Iams), Mars (Kal Kan, Mealtime, Pedigree, Sheba, Waltham’s), and Nutro. From a business standpoint, multinational companies owning pet food manufacturing companies is an ideal relationship. The multinationals have increased bulk-purchasing power; those that make human food products have a captive market in which to capitalize on their waste products, and pet food divisions have a more reliable capital base and, in many cases, a convenient source of ingredients.

There are hundreds of different pet foods available in this country. And while many of the foods on the market are similar, not all of the pet food manufacturing companies use poor quality or potentially dangerous ingredients.

  General Pet Food Ingredients

It would be impossible for a company that sells a generic brand of dog food at $9.95 for a 40-lb. bag to use quality protein and grain in its food. The cost of purchasing quality ingredients would be much higher than the selling price. The protein used in pet food comes from a variety of sources. When cattle, swine, chickens, lambs, or any number of other animals are slaughtered, the choice cuts such as lean muscle tissue are trimmed away from the carcass for human consumption. However, about 50% of every food-producing animal does not get used in human foods. Whatever remains of the carcass – bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, and almost all the other parts not generally consumed by humans – is used in pet food, animal feed, and other products. These “other parts” are known as “by-products” or other names on pet food labels. The ambiguous labels list the ingredients, but do not provide a definition for the products listed. The Pet Food Institute – the trade association of pet food manufacturers – acknowledges the use of by-products in pet foods as additional income for processors and farmers:

“The growth of the pet food industry not only provided pet owners with better foods for their pets, but also created profitable additional markets for American farm products and for the byproducts of the meat packing, poultry, and other food industries which prepare food for human consumption.”

Many of these remnants provide a questionable source of nourishment for our animals. The nutritional quality of meat and poultry by-products, meals, and digests can vary from batch to batch. James Morris and Quinton Rogers, two professors with the Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of California at Davis Veterinary School of Medicine, assert that, “There is virtually no information on the bioavailability of nutrients for companion animals in many of the common dietary ingredients used in pet foods. These ingredients are generally by-products of the meat, poultry and fishing industries, with the potential for a wide variation in nutrient composition. Claims of nutritional adequacy of pet foods based on the current Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient allowances (‘profiles’) do not give assurances of nutritional adequacy and will not until ingredients are analyzed and bioavailability values are incorporated.” Meat and poultry meals, by-product meals, and meat-and-bone meal are common ingredients in pet foods.

The term “meal” means that these materials are not used fresh, but have been rendered. What is rendering? Rendering, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary,is “to process as for industrial use: to render livestock carcasses and to extract oil from fat, blubber, etc., by melting.” Home-made chicken soup, with its thick layer of fat that forms over the top when the soup is cooled, is a sort of mini-rendering process. Rendering separates fat-soluble from water-soluble and solid materials, and kills bacterial contaminants, but may alter or destroy some of the natural enzymes and proteins found in the raw ingredients. What can the feeding of such products do to your companion animal? Some veterinarians claim that feeding slaughterhouse wastes to animals increases their risk of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. The cooking methods used by pet food manufacturers – such as rendering and extruding (a heat- and-pressure system used to “puff” dry foods into nuggets or kibbles) – do not necessarily destroy the hormones used to fatten livestock or increase milk production, or drugs such as antibiotics or the barbiturates used to euthanize animals.

  Specific Pet Food Ingredients

Animal and Poultry Fat You may have noticed a unique, pungent odor when you open a new bag of pet food — what is the source of that delightful smell? It is most often rendered animal fat, restaurant grease, or other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans. Restaurant grease has become a major component of feed grade animal fat over the last fifteen years. This grease, often held in fifty-gallon drums, is usually kept outside for weeks, exposed to extreme temperatures with no regard for its future use. “Fat blenders” or rendering companies then pick up this used grease and mix the different types of fat together, stabilize them with powerful antioxidants to retard further spoilage, and then sell the blended products to pet food companies and other end users. These fats are sprayed directly onto dried kibbles or extruded pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable. The fat also acts as a binding agent to which manufacturers add other flavor enhancers such as digests. Pet food scientists have discovered that animals love the taste of these sprayed fats. Manufacturers are masters at getting a dog or a cat to eat something she would normally turn up her nose at. Wheat, Soy, Corn, Peanut Hulls, and Other Vegetable Protein The amount of grain products used in pet food has risen over the last decade. Once considered filler by the pet food industry, cereal and grain products now replace a considerable proportion of the meat that was used in the first commercial pet foods.

The availability of nutrients in these products is dependent upon the digestibility of the grain. The amount and type of carbohydrate in pet food determines the amount of nutrient value the animal actually gets. Dogs and cats can almost completely absorb carbohydrates from some grains, such as white rice. Up to 20% of the nutritional value of other grains can escape digestion. The availability of nutrients for wheat, beans, and oats is poor. The nutrients in potatoes and corn are far less available than those in rice. Some ingredients, such as peanut hulls, are used for filler or fiber, and have no significant nutritional value. Two of the top three ingredients in pet foods, particularly dry foods, are almost always some form of grain products. Pedigree Performance Food for Dogs lists Ground Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, and Corn Gluten Meal as its top three ingredients. 9 Lives Crunchy Meals for cats lists Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, and Poultry By-Product Meal as its first three ingredients.

Since cats are true carnivores – they must eat meat to fulfill certain physiological needs – one may wonder why we are feeding a corn-based product to them. The answer is that corn is much cheaper than meat. In 1995, Nature’s Recipe pulled thousands of tons of dog food off the shelf after consumers complained that their dogs were vomiting and losing their appetite. Nature’s Recipe’s loss amounted to $20 million.

The problem was a fungus that produced vomitoxin (an aflatoxin or “mycotoxin,” a toxic substance produced by mold) contaminating the wheat. In 1999, another fungal toxin triggered the recall of dry dog food made by Doane Pet Care at one of its plants, including Ol’ Roy (Wal-Mart’s brand) and 53 other brands. This time, the toxin killed 25 dogs. Although it caused many dogs to vomit, stop eating, and have diarrhea, vomitoxin is a milder toxin than most. The more dangerous mycotoxins can cause weight loss, liver damage, lameness, and even death as in the Doane case.

The Nature’s Recipe incident prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to intervene. Dina Butcher, Agriculture Policy Advisor for North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer, concluded that the discovery of vomitoxin in Nature’s Recipe wasn’t much of a threat to the human population because “the grain that would go into pet food is not a high quality grain.” Soy is another common ingredient that is sometimes used as a protein and energy source in pet food. Manufacturers also use it to add bulk so that when an animal eats a product containing soy he will feel more satisfied. While soy has been linked to gas in some dogs, other dogs do quite well with it.

Copyright © 1997-2002 Animal Protection Institute.

A Letter From Lynn Johnson in Denver

Thanks Dave for your article on dog food. I’ve forwarded the link to my dog-owning friends, many of whom buy into the “vet recommended” Science Diet, which is as good as feeding your dog sawdust. I have a 6 year old golden retriever who has terrible allergies (and the behavioral issues that can come with it) due to eating crappy food for the first 2 years of his life. I’m sure you can imagine what we’ve been through with him–prednisone, elimination diets of brown rice and pinto beans for months, extreme hyperactivity, chronic yeast infections in his ears, hot spots, constant itchiness. He now eats Wellness Supermix duck & sweet potatoe, which doesn’t contain BHT, etc., and he hasn’t had a reaction since we switched. Duck is the only protein he’s never reacted to, otherwise we’d feed him a whole-food diet. This food is the almost-next-best thing that’s within our budget. When a friend complains about how expensive this or any high-quality brand is (we pay about $75/month to feed Sunny), I remind them that paying for cancer treatment, allergy diagnosis, medication etc. costs a hell of a lot more. Also, I wanted to share that my parents’ cat Rascal lived to be almost 25. He was an indoor/outdoor cat, and he ate more mice and birds than anything else. (bad for the bird population). I know that his wildlife diet is what kept him going for a quarter of a century. Too bad they don’t make mice & miller moth cat food … that would keep our companions alive for at least half of our lives! Keep up the interesting site. We hope you like what is really in dog food.

PRIVATE LESSONS work great and are effective 99% of the time.  Sometimes the level of training a dog needs surpasses what the owner is capable of achieving on their own and Board Training is a more appropriate option.



dog training sacramento

America’s #1 Dog Trainers


Dog Aggression Training


Woman with dog bite in Sacramento.


Dog trainers Sacramento, California
Happy, Pedro, Max, Kix, Mika and Archie

Pack of aggressive dogs.

“Better not touch the ball,” says Archie.

Aggressive Border Collie. Mr. Snap Snappy will bite you.

Border Collie dominant and aggressive.

He is loving and good and would like to sleep on the bed.

Archie’s first owner was told by behaviorists-veterinarians to keep a leash on so she would have control of him. Archie was smarter than the people with the lab coats though. He then bit anyone who even attempted to grab the leash.

Terrified dogs in Sacramento. Archie is the classic dominant dog and can be very intimidating.

Snarling aggressive dog. It’s all a show and about not trusting very well.

Like many Border Collies, Archie puts on a show if you piss him off. His snarling is how he talks back. DaveTheDogTrainer was really intimidated by Archie for close to a year. Archie really had Dave fooled and only really started behaving when Archie was able to trust Dave and know Dave would not hurt him. Now he is the best dog in the world. Archie has a great personality and is a lot of fun to own.

Most dogs like Archie can be trained if someone loves the dog enough. Many of the dogs you see in the pictures were animals other dog trainers, behaviorists and veterinarians gave up on.

Happy dog training Sacramento.

Many consider David Baron the #1 dog aggression experts in America.

Dog rehabilitation Sacramento

Food-Bribery and compulsion trainers and behaviorists probably are going to make your dog a lot worse, do nothing to control the dog, take your money, then tell you that your dog can’t be trained and should be destroyed.

Most Dog Trainers Are Totally Unprepared To Encounter A Truly Vicious Dog

Dog Bite Sacramento Experts.

Stray dogs prefer to bite extremities, especially fingers. Owned dogs tend to bite heads and faces.

Dog bites off finger of child.

With children, vicious stray dogs tend to bite hands because they are moving. Owned dogs more often aim for the face and particularly the mouth when they bite children.

  Butch Bites Treat Trainers

Common sense tells you that you food is not a good idea when dogs are a danger, but some people don’t have any.

English Mastiff trainers in the Sacramento area

Butch is a Mastiff/Rottweiler mix that weighs over 200 pounds. He viciously attacked a dog trainer when she threw treats at Butch to try and make friends. The trainer, an amateur hobbyist dog trainer, needed over 100 stitches and lost a finger.

Contrary to what most people think, nearly all aggressive dogs have been well socialized and very often have advanced obedience training. The reason why the dog starts disrespecting the owner and turned aggressive to humans is because the owner almost always does not know how to properly manage the dog and back up commands.
In our opinion, most behaviorists trained by university veterinary behavioral programs and teaching hospitals are a complete and utter fraud too. 

Sad are the stories about distraught dog owners having a behaviorist tell them that they should euthanize their dog “because it is AGGRESSIVE.” 

Many often many of these dogs are just puppy play-biting, teething or just doing what untrained dogs do. How can a 10-week-old puppy be aggressive and need to be destroyed? Obviously dog aggression is not that big of a problem for dog owners who get their dogs trained. Behaviorists do not train dogs and Food-Bribery is cute pet tricks not obedience.

The shocking part is that people pay ‘professionals’ who holds themselves out to the public as an animal expert/behaviorist and the person doesn’t even train dogs and tells people that their dogs can’t be trained and need to be destroyed. This is after they take your money. If they can’t train your dog then they should not take your money in the first place. Why would anyone need to pay someone to tell them that their dog can’t be trained and should be killed? If a plumber or an electrician can’t do a job, they don’t charge? The behaviorist or dog trainer gets money for doing nothing and telling you to kill your dog, as where the others that were hired to perform a task do not get paid unless they finish the job? What is the difference?

Just because someone wears a lab coat and has college degrees doesn’t make them effective, legitimate or ethical. People deserve more than blah, blah, blah and then get sent home with a Gentle Leader and told to give their dog treats for everything.

– Drugging dogs is not a solution and we have never seen it work except for anxiety. Most behavior veterinarians push drugs like they are candy for behaviors that should be dealt with by training the dog.

Behaviorists do not train dogs. Their job is not getting dogs to do things like dog trainers. If the person doesn’t train dogs you might as well just go buy Dog Training for Dummies. Why would you hire someone who doesn’t even train dogs? To learn interesting and fascinating things that don’t work in real-life?


Does this make sense to you?

How is giving treats for everything and taking an aggressive, stubborn, fearful or dominant dog to obedience classes at the park supposed to control a dog or remedy behavior problems in the home anyway? Treat training often destroys respect for the owner and makes the dog even more aggressive.

We don’t get it, do you? This just doesn’t make sense to us that Food-Bribery would work. We’ve never seen it work.All we usually hear is that the people were told their dog can’t be trained and should be destroyed by treat trainers and university behaviorists.

David Baron and Superdog errs on the side of life. If you want to keep your dog we can show you how to get it under control and manage it so it can live out its life and you and your family can love him and you don’t have to euthanize (kill) your family pet. 

We probably can’t make your dog like a happy-go-lucky Labrador puppy that loves everyone, but we can definitely show you how to get your dog under control and stop the barking, growling and lunging.We will show you how to get your dog under control on the first lesson. 

Who cares if they have a book deal and are certified behaviorists if they can’t train your dog?

We’ll give you a lot more than a hug and encouragement. We get your dog to “Down-Stay” for 30 minutes to an hour and walk behind you subordinately on “Heel.” Blah, blah, blah is going to get you absolutely nowhere if you can’t get your dog on “Heel” and “Down” and “Stay” in two or three lessons.

Better to get the good dog trainer the first time. The dog trainer needs to get the dog to lay down and walk behind you or you are just throwing away money on an amateur or a con artist. Call us first. We’ll get the job done.

We care and want to help. There is all the help in the world here if you don’t want to euthanize your dog.

dog training sacramentoservice dogs sacramento

America’s #1 Dog Trainers




Press Release - Dog Trainers Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, CA, November 4, 2013 /24-7 PressRelease/ — Superdog, Inc., a Sacramento Dog Training company founded in 1998 with trainers in 13 states, has introduced a new Behavioral Wellness program for dog owners owners of recently adopted and rescued dogs in Sacramento. Working in partnership with veterinarians, animal rescue groups and animal shelters in Sacramento and Roseville, the goal of the program is to help keep dogs safely living in their new adoptive homes.

David Baron, owner of Superdog and head Sacramento dog trainer reports, “Often dogs who end up in animal shelters are surrendered by their owners for behavior problems. Frustrated owners struggle with dog behavior problems like fear, aggression and housebreaking, and sometimes they just give up. When that happens, the dogs end up in the care of shelters and rescue groups. These groups are sometimes underfunded and overwhelmed, so we wanted to pitch in and help.”

The Sacramento Dog Training program involves evaluation of dogs at the 13-acre dog training to identify areas in need of improvement, and specific dog training protocols that help resolve dog behavior problems.

After the dogs are placed into their new homes, Superdog dog trainers in Sacramento work with the new families and help them train their. The new “Sacramento Dog Training” program boasts a 99.9% success rate – success being defined as keeping the dogs happily living in their new homes.

About Superdog’s Dog Training Sacramento:
Superdog Dog Training Sacramento was founded by David Baron in 1998 as an alternative to harsh training methods in use at the time among dominance-based dog trainers and ineffective Food-Bribery trainers. The company’s humane, dog-friendly training methods are designed to provide fast results for dog owners using Love, Praise, Affection and Friendship. Dogs enjoy the training and so do the owners, because behavior problems can be solved quickly and humanely.

Sacramento Dog Training private lessons are more convenient and are more effective than group lessons because the dog can be observed and worked with without unnecessary distractions.

Sacramento Dog Training opened their

Sacramento Dog Training

office in Roseville in 2004 and has quickly become a favorite resource among veterinarians and animal rescue groups for helping owners solve their dogs’ behavior problems. With dog franchise offices around the country, Superdog – Sacramento Dog Training is

Sacramento’s Best Dog Trainer

and America’s #1 dog trainer with offices in Northern and Southern California.