Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Research reveals dogs of the Americas

Friday, July 12th, 2013

sled-viewInuit sled dogs and other Alaskan breeds are the only dogs with American origins, according to new research. Although the original canine stock has been traced to Asia, there is evidence of dogs in the Americas dating to 10,000 years ago, before transoceanic travel brought Europeans and their dogs to the continent. “Nobody knows exactly what happened,” researcher Peter Savolainen said. “Most probably migrated together with the humans that entered America from Asia via the Bering Strait. These humans became today’s Indians and Inuits.” The canines became Inuit sled dogs, the Greenland dog and the Eskimo dog, according to the research.

Alaskan breeds — such as Inuit sled dogs, the Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog — are the only canines with actual American roots, according to DNA analysis. All of these pooches hail from the 49th state and nearby areas, according to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“They are all equally American,” co-author Peter Savolainen told Discovery News. “They originate from the indigenous Indian-American and Inuit dog populations, and have only marginally been mixed with European dogs in modern time.”

Savolainen, an associate professor at KTH-Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, explained the determination after tracing the origin of mitochondrial DNA lineages for several dog breeds suspected to be pre-Columbian, meaning before Europeans settled in the Americas. Dogs inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers.

Alaska’s Denali National Park uses sled dogs to patrol its 6 million acres of Arctic terrain.Scientists widely agree that the original stock of all canines worldwide originated from Asia. This is similar to the widely agreed-upon view that all members of our species originated in Africa before some people left that continent.

“There was a single origin of the domestic dog somewhere in Eurasia,” Savolainen explained. “The exact place is still debated, but our previous studies strongly indicate the southern part of East Asia, basically southern China.”

The earliest archaeological evidence for dogs in the Americas dates to around 10,000 years ago, long before the dawn of transoceanic travel in the 15th century that saw the arrival of Columbus and other Europeans.

Most U.S. dogs today, however, have European origins. Golden retrievers, poodles and many more breeds fall into this category.

Inuit sled dogs, the Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog, though, show no European heritage in their genes. Like Native Americans, they were in the United States and nearby areas long before Europeans arrived.

“Nobody knows exactly what happened,” Savolainen said. “Most probably migrated together with the humans that entered America from Asia via the Bering Strait. These humans became today’s Indians and Inuits.”

“Our data shows dogs came in several migrations, at least one with the Indian-American ancestors and at least one with the Inuit ancestors,” he continued.

The result for Alaskan Malamutes was ambiguous, but these dogs appear to come from slightly different stock originating in Siberia, Japan, China and Indonesia. The Alaskan husky and the American Eskimo dog have a known origin from Siberian spitzes and European dogs.

The dogs with the most pre-Columbian Mexican heritage, according to the study, are the Chihuahua and Xolo (Mexican hairless dog).

The researchers additionally determined that a group of free-ranging dogs based in South Carolina and Georgia — known as Carolina Dogs — likely have an ancient Asian origin.

Carolina Dogs might have once been associated with a Native American tribe, the canine’s relatives turning feral once their humans disappeared.

“The reason might be that the human population keeping these dogs was wiped out when Europeans came,” Savolainen said.

Prior research by Sarah Brown of UC Davis and colleagues is consistent with the latest findings about the Inuit sled dog, Eskimo dog and Greenland dog. Brown and her team found “ancient DNA evidence for genetic continuity in arctic dogs.”

Scientists hope to use such DNA studies and other research on dogs to learn more about past human migrations. From at least 10,000 years onward, wherever migrating humans went, dogs often came too.

Banfield survey leads to suggestions for improving pet longevity

Friday, June 28th, 2013

4770_thumbBanfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health Report for 2013 finds that life expectancy for dogs increased by 4% since 2002 while that of cats increased by 10%. Veterinarian Jeffrey Klausner, Banfield’s chief medical officer, cautioned that a downward trend in veterinary appointments could reverse health gains for pets. Dr. Klausner suggests several steps owners in any locale can take to improve the chances their pet will live a long, healthy life, including having twice-yearly veterinary exams, spaying/neutering and keeping cats indoors. ChicagoNow.com/Steve Dale’s Pet World blog (6/13)

here’s no U.S. Centers for Disease Control for pets. Until recently, veterinarians greatly practiced in a medical bubble, only knowing what they were seeing in their own clinics. With a database of more than 800 hospitals in 43 states, Banfield the Pet Hospital, is trying to change that. The company has been keeping tabs for several years on medical conditions and other information about pets, according to the 2013 Banfield State of Pet Health Report.

One issue Banfield researched in their survey of pets, conducted in 2012, is longevity: “We’ve known all along that cats live longer than dogs, and small dogs live longer than larger dogs,” says Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, medical director at Banfield, based in Portland, OR. “However, we never knew about how geography might impact longevity.”

Overall, our dogs are living longer. The average lifespan in 2012 was 11 years, up about four percent since 2002. Cats are also living longer, for an average of 12 years, that’s up 10 percent since 2002.

The five U.S. states where cats have the longest life expectancy:

  1. Montana
  2. Colorado
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Illinois
  5. Nebraska

The five states where dogs enjoy the longest lives:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Montana,
  3. Oregon
  4. New Mexico
  5. Colorado

Interestingly, only Montana and Colorado appear on both those lists.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the top five states with the longest life expectancies for people 1999 to 2001):

  1. Hawaii
  2. Minnesota
  3. North Dakota
  4. Connecticut
  5. Utah

Banfield reports that these are the five states where cats have the shortest life spans:Delaware

  1. Delaware
  2. Ohio
  3. Louisiana
  4. Kentucky
  5. Mississippi

Here are the five states where dogs have the shortest life expectancies:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alabama
  3. Louisiana
  4. Delaware
  5. Massachusetts

Apparently, Delaware, Louisiana and Mississippi aren’t states where pets thrive, at least to their full potential.

According to U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control data, these are the five states with the shortest life spans for people (1999-2001):

  1. Kentucky
  2. South Carolina
  3. Alabama
  4. Louisiana
  5. Mississippi

While surprisingly, no states correlate where people and pets enjoy the longest life spans, Louisiana and Mississippi are on the list for cats, dogs and people with the shortest life expectancies.

So should people escape some states with their pets and move to others where their animals may live longer? “No, I hope not,” says Klausner. “We don’t know the significance of the data. We do know there are some steps individual pet owners can make to increase life spans. As more people spay/neuter their pets, their life spans increase. No doubt, keeping more cats indoors also plays a role. And certainly seeing veterinarians twice a year is likely to increase life span.”

As veterinary visits decline, as they have been in recent years, Klausner is concerned that this trend of pets living longer could potentially be reversed. Or perhaps pets would even be living longer than they currently do if more of them received twice-annual preventive care exams.

According to the Banfield report, the most common diagnoses for dogs were:

  1.  Dental tartar
  2.  Otitis externa (ear infection)
  3.  Overweight
  4.  Dermatitits (skin infection)
  5.  Fleas

In cats, the most common diagnoses included:

  1. Dental calculus
  2. Overweight
  3. Fleas
  4. Gingivitis
  5. Otitis externa (ear infection)

Overweight pets are an epidemic. According to the Banfield report, in the past five years, the prevalence of significant excess body weight has increased 37 percent in dogs, and 90 percent in cats. This doesn’t come without consequences, contributing greatly to the 38 percent rise in arthritis in dogs and 67 increase in cats over the past five years. Diabetes in cats and dogs has about doubled over the past five years.

“Weight gain, especially in cats, happens gradually and may be difficult for owners to know has happened,” adds Klausner. “Simply weighing the pet twice a year is important.”

The Banfield survey also tallied the most common pet names. For cats, they are:

  1.  Kitty
  2. Bella
  3. Tiger
  4. Max
  5. Smokey

The most popular names for dogs include:

  1.  Bella
  2. Max
  3. Buddy
  4. Daisy
  5. Coco

See more survey results

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services