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July 2014

PolyEthylene Glycol: What You Need To Know For Yourself And Your Dog

Original Article On DogsNaturallyMagazine

Recently, I was working with a dog who was suffering from severe itching and hair loss. After we went through the usual dietary factors, we started to go over her environment and eventually her grooming products. Her diet was perfect, her home environment was as non-toxic as you can get. Then, I came across a new wellness product she had been using that contained polyethylene glycol. This product touted that it quickly healed wounds and could be used as a post-surgical application to speed the healing of incisions. The product was also being sold as an “all natural” solution for wound care. Finding out that manufacturers are using polyethylene glycol in wound care and other “natural” products sparked my interest in just how many of these products were on the market. After some research, I realized there are a large number of products containing polyethylene glycol being marketed to pets and those numbers are growing. Scary. Here is the rub: Polyethylene glycol should not be in anything that you feed your dog or put on their skin, especially damaged skin.

What is Polyethylene Glycol?

Polyethylene glycol, otherwise known as PEG, is a mixture of bonded polymer plastic compounds that are combined with glycol to make a thick sticky liquid. PEG is manufactured for use in paints, wood treatments, detergents, cleaners and coatings. Somehow, the chemical has worked its way into cosmetics, canine wellness products and medicine. Sounds healthy, right? You might be more familiar with a product called Myralax, which is sold as a laxative. When taken internally, PEG causes the colon to absorb water and produce a watery stool. I know you would not give Myralax to your dog but you might unknowingly give PEG to them if you are not carefully reading labels. The product my client was using was for her dog’s surgical wound. She had just gotten spayed. How I knew that it was her post-surgical gel that was causing her itching and hair loss was that PEG causes problems with it comes in contact with broken or damaged skin. PEG can accumulate in the body if it is able to penetrate the skin layer, affecting your dog’s skin and coat, nervous system, and beneficial bacteria. Polyethylene glycol functions as a “penetration enhancer,” which means it increases the permeability of the skin to allow the rapid absorption of substances through the skin layer. This allows a high absorption rate of any product containing polyethylene glycol.


Nervous-DogThe Cosmetic Ingredient Review board (CIR) studies chemical compounds found in cosmetics. ( CIR notes that PEG compounds “should not be used on damaged skin”. If you look at polyethylene glycol’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), under “Skin Contact” it reads: “Immediately flood affected skin with water while removing and isolating all contaminated clothing. Gently wash all affected skin areas thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical attention if warranted.” Um, how can anyone think that rubbing PEG on any type of skin is a good idea after reading this warning? The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ( notes: “Ethylene glycol is chemically broken down in the body into toxic compounds. It and its toxic by-products first affect the central nervous system, then the heart, and finally the kidneys. Ingestion of sufficient amounts can be fatal”. This warning is alarming for a topical product that directs you to rub it on damaged skin.

Contamination Risk

Another issue that polyethylene glycol has is contamination. Depending on the way polyethylene glycol is manufactured, PEG can contain contaminants like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. polycyclic aromatic compounds, lead, cobalt, nickel, cadmium, and arsenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer ( has classified ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen that can harm the nervous system and interfere with human development. 1,4-dioxane is listed as a possible human carcinogen. 1,4-dioxane is a chemical that remains in the environment for long periods of time because it does not easily degrade. If the above wasn’t enough, polyethylene glycol also destroys the beneficial bacteria found on your dog’s skin and inside their stomachs. Dogs rely on these bacteria for a healthy immune system and a balanced pH level. Sadly, most manufacturers don’t know about all the research being done into polyethylene glycol and its derivatives. From the information that I found, it would not make sense for natural product and cosmetic manufacturers to use PEG and PEG derivatives but they do. Hopefully, as more information becomes available and more people complain about the use of the ingredient, they will leave polyethylene glycol to the paint and coatings manufacturers.

In the case of our canine friends, my main concern comes with topical medication geared toward the healing of damaged skin and wounds. I encourage you to keep reading labels and looking up ingredients. If you don’t know what something is, research it and find out if it is safe for you and your dog. Don’t rely on the manufacturer.

Summer Hazards And Your Pet

DogthermSummer is a great time for you and your pet but there are some hazards that you should be aware of.

Heat stroke

For most of our pets, the summer heat can be stressful and at times fatal. Heat stroke from too much exercise in hot weather or leaving your pet in a hot car is a real danger. NEVER, NEVER , NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET IN THE CAR IN THE SUMMER HEAT. The temperatures can climb in excess of 100 F and kill your dog in a few minutes.

When exercising with your pet, take frequent breaks and make sure he has enough water. If your pet is easily heat stressed avoid outside activities in the heat of the day. Remember that the young animals, old animals, brachycephalic dogs like pugs and Arctic dog breeds suffer the most from the heat. Take precautions.


Fleas, ticks and heartworms are prevalent in the summer. Flea allergy dermatitis, a allergy to flea saliva,is very common. Symptoms of this problem are scratching and biting excessively at the rump and back area, causing hair loss, bleeding and scabs. Be sure to contact your veterinarian to help you with flea, tick and heartworm prevention. Natural preventives like Shoo Tags will work for fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

Water safety

When the pool is open or you are taking your dog to the lake, don’t forget about water safety. Dogs can fall into pools and even if they can swim may not be able to get out. If your pool does not have wide steps so your dog can get out, consider investing in a scamper ramp so your dog can get out. There are also water alarms that can be put on a dog’s collar that will alert you if he falls into the water.

Lifejackets are a must around water for dogs who can’t swim and if you are taking your dog boating. Every year dogs end up in the veterinary emergency room for near drowning. Don’t let it happen to your dog.

Paw injuries

If your pet walks on hot pavement during the summer, he may get burns or blisters on his feet. I have treated more than one dog with paw injuries caused by running on hot asphalt. If you like to run with your dog, consider booties to protect the paws. If the paw do become blistered, Pet Wellbeing’s Itchy Owie Ointment works well for pad injuries

Summer food

Be sure to watch your pet when you are having your family celebrations so he or she does not succumb to summer GI distress

Itchy Owie Ointment : “Gentle and effective treatment

FDA Warns Against Feeding Pets Raw Diets

Article originally on

Food poisoning isn’t only a human problem, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, which says that pets are also at risk if they eat foods that are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. Two of these bacteria—Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes—are particularly dangerous to both pets and humans, says the FDA.


Raw petfood consists primarily of meat, bones and organs that haven’t been cooked, and therefore are more likely than cooked food to contain organisms that can make a dog or cat sick, says William J. Burkholder, DVM, PhD, veterinary medical officer in the FDA’s Division of Animal Feeds. Moreover, raw food can make humans sick as well if it isn't handled properly. The FDA says it does not believe feeding raw petfoods to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks.

 The agency recommends cooking raw meat and poultry to kill harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes before the food is given to pets. Burkholder says people who choose a raw diet for their pets often point out that feral dogs and cats catch prey and eat it raw. “That’s true,” he says, “but we don’t know how many of these animals get sick or die as a result of doing that. Since sick feral animals are rarely taken to a veterinarian when they’re ill, there’s no way to collect that information.”

Consumers also run the risk of getting sick if they handle contaminated petfoods and accidentally transfer the bacteria to their mouths. “If you’re going to handle raw foods, you need to pay particular attention to good hygienic practices,” says Burkholder. “Wash your hands and anything else that comes into contact with the product with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.”

Feeding raw food to a pet also increases the risk of contaminating food contact surfaces and other places. “Even if the dog or cat doesn’t get sick, they can become carriers of Salmonella and transfer the bacteria to their surroundings, and then people can get the disease from contact with the infected environment,” says Burkholder. Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria when it has a bowel movement, and the contamination will continue to spread.

“Feeding raw foods to pets increases the risk that both the pet and the people around the pet will encounter bacteria that cause foodborne illness, particularly if the products are not carefully handled and fed,” says Burkholder. “This is certainly one factor that should be considered when selecting diets for your pet.”


Normerica Repackaged And Re-Dated Stale Dog Treats Say Ex-Employees - Costco Still Carries This Brand

Original Article From

Two former Normerica Inc. warehouse workers claim the Ontario-based pet product company had employees routinely switch pet treats between different brand name packages and re-date them after they were imported from China and Thailand.

They claim mouldy and stale pet treats were sent out to stores for sale.

Duck, sweet potato and chicken jerky treats imported by the company and sold by Loblaw, Costco and other retailers are among brands suspected of making dogs ill.

Dog treats warehouse

The former Normerica employee said warehouse staff used heat guns to remove old product labels, before repackaging old dog treats under a new label. (CBC)

The accusations from former employees came after CBC's Go Public revealed Costco is continuing to sell pet jerky treats from China, despite being warned by a pet owner whose veterinarian believes treats purchased there killed her puppy. The treats are imported into Canada by Normerica Inc.

The company has since had the Duck Tenders the dog consumed tested by the lab it uses.

"The results of the testing confirmed the absolute presence of poultry as a single ingredient, that being duck," said Mortec's report. "We concluded no untoward unwanted suspect substances were present in the finished product."

Numerous tests by the FDA on jerky treats also found no substance that would cause the illnesses, but it is still investigating.


The two former employees who said they worked in an Etobicoke warehouse for Normerica contacted Go Public to report concerns they had over how the products were stored and handled.

One sent pictures to back up their claims. They said they did not take the pictures to make them public, but decided to do so after reading Go Public's piece on the potential link between the treats and dog deaths.

Treats 'sitting there for years'

Both former employees spoke on the condition they would not be named. Go Public also agreed not to disclose the duration of their employment. Both worked for Normerica in recent years.

Dog treats warehouse

According to warehouse employees, these packages were cut open so the product could be put in new packages under different brand labels. (CBC)

One said a large part of their job was removing old product from packages that were stale or overstocked, then repackaging or relabelling it in different brand name bags — with a new date stamp.
"Some [of the jerky treats] had been sitting there for years. Dated back to 2008. We would use X-Acto knives to open the packages and then repackage them under new [product] labels and change the date on the new package [to 2011 for example]," said the former employee.
"It was disgusting ... the warehouse wasn't clean enough to have open food."

Company denial

Normerica president Colin Gleason denied packaging dates are changed, but didn't explain the photos of products being repackaged.


Two former Normerica Inc. employees say they repackaged and re-dated stale dog treats while working in an Ontario warehouse. (CBC)

"We do not repackage stale product and sell it with a new date code," said Gleason in a statement. "Our company policy on any product that is approaching the date code is to donate it locally to animal shelters."

"Some [treats] that were not packaged properly got mouldy," said the other former employee.

As a result of these allegations, Loblaw said it is removing all products from Normerica off its shelves.

"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We are taking it very seriously," said a statement from Kevin Groh, vice-president, corporate affairs and communication.

"We have been in contact with the vendor and are in the process of removing the implicated products from our store shelves as a precaution until our investigation is complete."

Costco said none of the products imported by Normerica and sold at Costco are stored at the Ontario warehouse in question.

"We receive the treats directly from Asia to the Port of Vancouver where it is sent to our distribution centres," said Costco spokesman Ron Damiani.

"Random testing is also conducted on each container of product before it ships."

Customers shocked by mould 

Two customers also contacted Go Public to say they bought treats packaged under the Vitalife brand and were shocked when they opened the bags and found mouldy product.

Dog treats 1

This bag of mouldy Vitalife Chicken Fingers was returned to the Costco in Nepean, Ont., by dog owner Andrea Challis. (CBC)

Andrea Challis said she bought Vitalife's chicken fingers in February at Costco in Nepean, Ont. Unlike its duck and sweet potato treats, that Normerica product is made in Canada.

"I bought the treats for my three-year-old mini golden doodle Avery, thinking they were a good alternative to the treats made in China," said Challis. 

"When I opened the bag, there was mould everywhere. The best-before date was November 2015. I wrote to Vitalife and never received a response. I returned the treats to Costco, filled out a report and was told that someone would follow up," said Challis.

"Costco's response was nonchalant ... like they'd heard it before. I never heard back."

Refunded after purchase

Cathi Iacuitto of Vancouver said her Havanese shih tzu Cooper has been chronically ill, with digestive problems, since eating Vitalife treats she purchased at Superstore and Costco.

She said she returned a bag of chicken jerky because it was mouldy.

"Under close examination of the treats using a magnifying glass there was a mould growing similar to a light Fusarium, which could be toxic," said Iacuitto, who inspects grain shipments for the federal government.

"I explained to Vitalife that their product made my dog sick and they should have to pay the vet bills. They took no responsibility and instead sent me a refund for the product I returned to them," said Iacuitto.

"Right now is the third time he has gone in [to the vet]. This bill so far is quoted at $711 and after the lab results may cost me more."

The former Normerica employees said the repackaging and re-dating of Vitalife and other products was done after shipments from overseas arrived in large containers. The treats had been irradiated and packaged already, in Asia, under various brand names.

They said some of the shipping containers arrived with bugs in them. They also said the warehouse was not air-conditioned or properly ventilated, so some of the products sat for months in overheated conditions. 

Dog treats 5

Cooper's owner said she's taken him to the vet several times, suffering from digestive problems. She fed him Vitalife chicken, duck and sweet potato treats. (CBC)

"We have no record of “bugs” showing up in containers coming to that facility," said Gleason, the Normerica president.

"We do, however, have a policy in place … that should a container show up with “bugs” it would immediately be placed in quarantine and the pest control company would take the appropriate actions to deal with the issue. We have used the services of Abell Pest Control for the last five years."

'Nothing got thrown out'

"A bunch of times we would get product and there were bugs in the containers," the former employee said. "Nothing got thrown out."

They said all the repackaging happened long after samples were sent to a Canadian lab for testing. Most of the products

Mouldy jerky

Vancouver pet owner Cathi Iacuitto returned a bag of  Vitalife chicken jerky treats after seeing the mould. (CBC)

​were never tested, they said, and were then interchanged in packages under the Vitalife, Canyon Creek and President's Choice labels.


"There were multiple brands in each [shipping] container," the first source said.

"They would unpack and repackage the stuff in different brand name packages," said the other source. "I would repackage and then down the line they would be re-dated."

They said workers often didn't wear gloves and did the repackaging on cardboard surfaces that weren't clean. One of the ex-employees estimated they would repackage and re-date approximately 1,800 individual packages of dog treats every two weeks.
"If we needed to ship out an order of Vitalife treats and we didn't have enough, we would open up the President's Choice bags and put them in Vitalife bags."

"You could really notice the treats when they got old because they would crumble in your hands [when the package was opened for transfer to another package]."
Both sources said they believe customers are charged more for treats packaged under the Vitalife label, but they said all were the same product.

Jerky treats 4

One of the two former employees submitted pictures to CBC's Go Public to back up their claims of concern about how imported pet treats were handled at the warehouse. (CBC)

Gleason said the practices at the warehouse are subject to outside scrutiny.

"Our manufacturing facilities are certified with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). As such they are audited annually and certified to the same calibre as any human food manufacturing facility. Additionally, we are subject to random audits by our retail customers as well as inspections by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency."

However, the first former employee also said that when Normerica was expecting clients or other visitors to the warehouse, they were told to pretend they were doing other jobs
"They would come in, and we would be told to make it look like we were doing inventory."



Is There An Odor Coming From Your Dog's Behind?

Boston Terrier Puppy

If you’ve ever noticed a foul odor wafting from your pet’s hind end, there's  a chance that anal sacs may be the source of the problem. As any pet parent will tell you, nothing smells as uniquely terrible as the material emitted from these  glands. 

In some mammals, including dogs and cats, anal sacs are small pouches which store secretions from the glands between the internal and external sphincter muscles. A dog or cat can discharge the material collected in the sac through these ducts.

One thing this liquid has in common: it almost always has a terribly  offensive odor, and one that is difficult to remove from carpets, beds and  clothing.

The function of these small but potent scent glands is believed to be for  territorial marking and communication. Those unfortunate enough to have  unexpectedly frightened a dog may have experienced the canine’s ability to  ‘spray’ their glandular contents - sometimes as far as six feet! Some biologists  believe, for the ancestors of modern day dogs and cats, these organs were not  only used in communication, but could also have been used as defense (much as a  skunk sprays for self-preservation). I can assure you that when the trapped  substances are released, they’re sufficiently foul to ward off any human  predators!

In most animals, anal glands function completely normally. For the most part,  if it’s not a problem, you’d never have a reason to know about them. Many pet parents don’t even know that their pet has anal glands.

However, for some dogs and cats, anal glands can be a real pain in the tukkis.  With long-term inflammation, the sacs can become impacted and infected. In  severe cases, they can actually rupture. The first sign of trouble is when your  dog or cat hunches up and scoots his butt across the floor. That, or  repetitively and excessively licks his hind end. If you notice either of these  signs, a trip to the vet’s office is warranted.

If the problem recurs, pet parents can feel helpless in warding off this  noxious – not to mention, painful - problem. Adding fiber to the diet (such as a  tablespoon of sweet potato with meals) can provide some relief. Some pet kids (dogs more often than cats) will need to have their glands emptied on a regular  basis. While some groomers offer this service, veterinarians and vet technicians  are trained in techniques to completely drain the glands. Which is to say, if  your pet is predisposed to this sort of problem, I recommend that a medical  professional do the procedure (referred to as ‘expressing’). If the area becomes infected or impacted, understand that the condition is very painful, and should  be addressed as soon as possible. They may require pain medication, and perhaps  even a course of antibiotics. For some pets with chronic cases, vets may  advocate surgically removing the glands entirely.

If you’re looking for a culprit, know that this is just an unfortunate  consequence of genetics. While not unheard of, this medical issue is less of a  problem for large and giant breeds. Even if your dog isn’t one of the  small-to-medium size dogs predisposed to the difficulty, should you notice any  signs of discomfort, don’t rule out anal sac problems.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks, Life's Abundance Pet Product Formulator