Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Breaking: Taurine might not be behind heart disease from kibble

Monday, December 30th, 2019

From Dogs Naturally Magazine

By:  –

They alerted pet owners about the potential for heart disease in dogs on certain diets … diets that may be deficient in taurine.

Everyone panicked … but was this panic warranted?

The Tale Of Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid found mainly in meat. Unlike other amino acids, which are used mainly to build proteins, taurine is a loner. It has many special functions, including:

  • It’s a component of bile, which breaks down dietary fat.
  • It’s vital for the proper function of muscles (especially the heart), eyes, brain, and the immune system.
  • It has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Dogs manufacture their own taurine from the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine.  But, with advancing age, taurine production decreases.

The first inkling about taurine’s importance came in the 1980s. Researchers at UC Davis discovered that taurine deficiency was impacting cats. Thousands of cats were going blind. Some were even dying from a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

This happened because pet food companies were making ingredient substitutions. They substituted more and more plant proteins, such as soybeans or corn gluten meal, in place of real meat.

The trouble is … soybeans and corn are poor sources of sulfur-containing amino acids. They also contain zero taurine.

Unlike dogs, cats (and ferrets) must consume taurine in the diet and cannot produce their own.

So the manufacturers started supplementing all cat foods with taurine. The epidemic then faded away (although DCM can still occur, unrelated to diet). Pet food makers saw no reason to add taurine to dog foods, so they chose not to incur the added expense.

However, DCM is common in dogs, especially large breeds. And there is such a thing as taurine-deficiency DCM in dogs; it was discovered in the 1990s.

Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands … and a handful of other breeds … appear to be genetically predisposed to DCM. It’s also recognized that big dogs produce taurine more slowly than small dogs. This increases their risk of DCM.

[Related: NEWS: FDA Reports Some Dog Foods May Cause Heart Disease]

What The Research Has To Say

Recent research suggests that diet is a factor in less than 20 to 30 percent of dogs with DCM. Some (but not all) of these dogs will improve with taurine supplementation. And that raises even more questions about it!

For one thing, taurine may not even be the real culprit. Taurine production relies on adequate methionine and cysteine in the diet. So the problem may be a deficiency of those amino acids, rather than a lack of taurine itself.

The microbiome may also play a major role in taurine deficiency. This turned out to be the primary factor in cats.  The taurine from bile is reabsorbed in the colon … but bacteria can “steal” taurine and prevent this crucial recycling.

Processing may also play a significant role in dogs as well as cats. This has not, to date, been considered or investigated.

Grain-Free And “Boutique” Foods

The FDA reported a link between DCM and “grain-free” dog foods with large amounts of:

  • Potatoes
  • Legumes
  • Exotic proteins

One expert called these “BEG” (Boutique, Exotic and Grain-Free) diets.

The increase in reported taurine-DCM cases caught the FDA’s attention. Not because it was a new concern … but because the dogs weren’t breeds previously known to develop taurine-deficiency DCM. 

These included:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Whippets
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Shih Tzu
  • A Bulldog and an unspecified number of mixed-breed dogs (and 7 cats).

The FDA said, “potatoes or multiple legumes such as peas, lentils, other pulses (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch, and fiber,” were the main ingredients of the food in several cases of DCM reported to the agency.

In practical terms, this means that a pet food containing related ingredients … such as “peas, potatoes, pea starch, pea protein, potato protein” could be problematic. This is a common label trick known as “splitting.”

Listing ingredient fractions separately helps a small amount of meat rise to the top … as the ingredients are listed by weight. But, in reality, if they totaled all the plant products, they’d outweigh the meat. This means the food is primarily plant-based.

If the meat is itself is low in taurine, as it is in …

  • Beef
  • Venison
  • Lamb
  • Rabbit
  • Kangaroo

…  that exacerbates the problem in diets with these ingredients.

Interestingly, most vegetarian and vegan dog foods already contain added taurine and carnitine. Evidently, this issue was not hard to anticipate in low- or zero-meat diets.

Manufacturers whose products have been implicated quickly retuned to add supplemental taurine to their foods … but even that may not be enough to correct the problem.

The link between canine DCM and diet is not restricted to exotic meats, potatoes or legumes. Current and past research notes that any of these ingredients may be correlated with DCM:

Animal Products

  • Bison
  • Duck
  • Lamb
  • Kangaroo
  • Salmon
  • Venison

Plant Products

  • Barley
  • Beet pulp*
  • Chickpeas
  • Fava beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Rice/rice bran**
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tapioca

* While it was not named by FDA in this situation … beet pulp is known to decrease taurine status in dogs under some conditions. 

** Previous studies found taurine deficiency from eating diets containing rice or rice bran. 

[Related: The Truth About Grain-Free Dog Foods And DCM]

Consider All Factors

It’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. Just because taurine is a common factor in a bunch of dogs with DCM … it does not mean that taurine deficiency is the sole cause.

Taurine may just be an innocent bystander! Moreover, this list is counter-intuitive, because salmon and duck are high in taurine. Therefore, processing, bioavailability or other factors are also playing a role. 

For example, taurine from fish is diminished by heat processing; the loss is about 30 percent.

The FDA claims … food made by small “boutique” manufacturers is more likely to be problematic.

However, in one set of 18 cases, 15 were from foods with “boutique” brand labels … but those brands are owned and produced by some of the world’s biggest pet food manufacturers …

  • Purina
  • Mars
  • Champion

It appears that the size of the pet food company is largely irrelevant. And now the FDA has done irreparable damage to small brands’ reputations … with its premature and inaccurate assessment.

DCM occurs in all kinds of dogs eating all kinds of foods …

  • Foods with a simple ingredient list
  • Food with a very complex ingredient list
  • Homemade diets
  • Commercial raw foods.

And while the FDA listed ingredients that have at some point been associated with DCM in dogs … they seem to only be concerned with potatoes and legumes.

It’s very important to note this: Not all dogs with DCM … and not all dogs with very low blood levels of taurine … respond to taurine supplementation. 

Many dogs with DCM have perfectly normal taurine levels. A few dogs with low taurine levels can develop DCM …  but so can dogs who are eating high-taurine foods.

This implies that taurine itself isn’t the problem (at least in those cases). It could be a lack of methionine, cysteine or any number of completely different factor(s).

One study on taurine in dogs concluded, “there was no clear relationship between low (whole blood taurine) and presence of DCM.”

The Bottom Line

Grain-free dog foods have been safely fed to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dogs for many years. The relationship to DCM is far from clear.

The FDA is not recommending a diet change for any dog, as their investigation is ongoing.

The link between diet and DCM is much more complicated than blaming a few ingredients. It’s clear that we need to consider genetics and diet ingredients combined.

Or perhaps the food’s overall content of …

  • Methionine
  • Cysteine
  • L-carnitine
  • Taurine

… And other factors like processing are at the root of DCM in these cases.

But at this point, no one – the FDA or anyone else … has any idea which factors are actually problematic. Nor do they know in what amounts or combinations.

Unfortunately, many veterinarians are now recommending grain-based foods … even though there haven’t been all that many cases.

And the chance of a dog developing taurine-related DCM  is extremely small.

Grain-based foods have their own (significant) set of problems including:

  • Pesticide residues
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Toxic byproducts of processing
  • Mycotoxins from mold

They also tend to use less expensive, poorer quality animal proteins. You’ll see ingredients like poultry by-products, meat meal and bone meal.

So, what should you do?

Ideally, feed your dog a fresh diet that’s high in animal protein. But at the very least, make sure the food you’re feeding has more meat proteins than plant substitutes.

Don’t forget, you can call the manufacturer and ask questions if you’re uncertain! 

Symptoms Of DCM In Dogs

Symptoms of DCM in dogs include:

  • Tiring easily
  • Excessive panting
  • Coughing
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia (being unsteady on the feet)

If you have any concerns about your dog or the food you’re feeding, talk with your vet about testing. Your veterinarian can submit blood and plasma samples to UC Davis for analysis.

However, as expected, their laboratory has been overwhelmed since the FDA’s announcement. So it could take weeks to get your dog’s results.

Keep Yourself Up To Date

The best place for up-to-date information on brands can be found on Facebook, in the Taurine DCM group.

While there is a great deal of speculation and misinformation in the posted comments … you’ll find a few helpful items. They have a current chart of cases, including breeds, as well as specific brand names. You’ll find these in their Files Section. 

It’s way too early to hit the panic button, but it’s certainly good to be aware of this ongoing issue.

Dementia in Senior Dogs

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

Pets, Asbestos Exposure, and Mesothelioma

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

From www.mesothelioma.net

For more information and to sign up to receive resources by mail, go to:

https://mesothelioma.net/pets-asbestos-exposure-mesothelioma/

Pets, like their human caretakers, are susceptible to becoming ill from asbestos exposure. Dogs, cats, and other animals can develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses, with devastating consequences. As with humans, mesothelioma in pets is an aggressive and deadly type of cancer. The treatment options are even more limited and the hope of survival minimal.

Pets may become exposed to asbestos in many of the same ways people are. Older homes with worn and exposed asbestos insulation, for instance, can send fibers into the air that humans and animals alike may inhale. If the owner works around asbestos and brings fibers home on clothing, this too can lead to exposure in pets. Mesothelioma in pets is rare, but it is possible. It is important to minimize exposure risks for people and animals in the household.
mesothelioma in pets

Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma in Pets

Evidence that points to asbestos as a cause of mesothelioma in humans is already overwhelming. Research into pets with mesothelioma is much more limited, but it does exist. One study, for instance, examined the tissues of dogs that died from mesothelioma. Researchers saw pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial mesothelioma in the population of dogs studied and even some that had cancerous tissues in more than one part of the mesothelium. Most of the dogs in the study were found to have asbestos in the affected tissues, providing a link between the cancer and exposure to asbestos. Dogs in a control group had far fewer fibers.

Stories of animals suffering and dying from mesothelioma are rare, but heartbreaking.  In the United Kingdom there was a case reported of a dog that died from mesothelioma. The devastated owners reported that their dog had sniffed asbestos-containing materials that had been dumped at old building sites in the woods where they regularly walked. After thousands of dollars in vet bills the dog could not be saved.

How Pets May Be Exposed to Asbestos

Although mesothelioma is rare, it is strongly linked to exposure to asbestos so pet owners need to be aware of the asbestos risks and should take steps to minimize any possibility of exposure. One of the most likely ways in which an animal may be exposed is through secondhand contact. If you come home from work with fibers of asbestos on your clothes, your pet is likely to inhale those fibers or even ingest them.

Pets may also be exposed to asbestos that is in the home. Homes built before the 1980s most likely contain asbestos in insulation, HVAC systems, flooring, siding, ceiling materials, and other areas of the house. If that asbestos is disturbed, worn down, or damaged, the fibers can become airborne where they can be inhaled by anyone in the house, including pets.

This risk is especially high during renovation or remodeling projects. This kind of work can disturb previously encapsulated asbestos. The best way to protect animals during home projects is to keep them temporarily out of the home, at someone else’s house or at a kennel or boarding facility. While humans can wear protective gear, animals cannot. Also, dogs may lick things on which asbestos dust has settled.
Like the dog in the United Kingdom that died after being exposed to asbestos on walks, exposure outside of the home is a rare but possible risk for pets, especially dogs. Dogs that go outdoors for walks or spend a lot of time out in the yard may be at risk for exposure from any nearby demolition, construction, or mining.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma in Pets

If your pet has been exposed to asbestos, you may see signs of illness. If you catch these early and have your dog or cat diagnosed and treated, you may be able to extend the life of your beloved pet. There is no way to cure mesothelioma in cats or dogs, but early detection can give you more treatment options and a better chance of giving him or her a better quality of life for as long as is left. Dogs are more likely to develop mesothelioma than cats.

With pleural mesothelioma, a pet may exhibit signs such as labored breathing, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath, and a cough. With peritoneal mesothelioma, an animal may display abdominal discomfort, abdominal swelling, or vomiting. Other symptoms of any type of mesothelioma may include fatigue and lethargy, an enlarged scrotum, and unusual sounds in the abdomen or chest.

Diagnosing and Treating Mesothelioma

If you see any unusual symptoms in your dog or cat, you should take your pet to the vet immediately. If you have any reason to believe your pet may have been exposed to asbestos, inform your veterinarian so that your animal will get a complete diagnosis. As with humans, diagnosing mesothelioma can be tricky. Your vet will begin with a physical exam and likely a blood and urine analysis. From there your vet will probably want to do imaging tests, like an X-ray, to look for tissue abnormalities. The next step would be a biopsy to remove fluid or tissue for examination.

Much of the treatment given to an animal for mesothelioma will be palliative, to keep the pet comfortable. However, there are some cancer treatments that may slow the progression of the disease and give you more time with your pet. In one small study, a specific combination of chemotherapy drugs allowed a dog to go into remission, although other animals in the study did not. Palliative treatments for an animal with mesothelioma include medications for pain and procedures to drain fluid from the abdomen or chest cavity.

Help Your Pet Live with Mesothelioma

A diagnosis of cancer in a pet is devastating news, especially when the prognosis is not favorable. There are things you can do to make sure your pet lives the rest of his or her days in the most comfort possible. Limiting activity is important, especially for a pet with pleural mesothelioma. Taking slower and shorter walks can give your dog a chance for exercise and fresh air without overexertion, for instance.

Your pet should also be given a quiet and comfortable place in the home to rest. Make this area easy to access, but out of the way of noise or disruption so that he or she can rest as needed. Regular visits to the vet are also important so you can be sure that you are doing the best for your animal and providing all the care that is necessary for maximum comfort. When the time is right you may need to make the difficult decision about letting your pet go, but your vet can help you make that choice. The loss of a pet to a disease like mesothelioma is terrible and the only way to prevent it is to keep your pet safe from asbestos.

 

Canines’ Cancer-Sniffing Snouts Showing 90%-Plus Accuracy

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
By Angela Zimm May 18, 2014 9:00 PM PT
Source: the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School
Cancer detection dog McBaine

Which is better at detecting cancer, a laboratory or a Labrador retriever?

Consider the talents of Tsunami, a regal-looking dog with attentive eyes and an enthusiastic tail wag for her trainer friends. University of Pennsylvania researchers say she is more than 90 percent successful in identifying the scent of ovarian cancer in tissue samples, opening a new window on a disease with no effective test for early detection that kills 14,000 Americans a year. When found early, there’s a five-year survival rate of over 90 percent.

With 220 million olfactory cells in a canine snout, compared with 50 million for humans, dogs have long helped on search-and-rescue. Now, a growing body of evidence supports the possible use of canines by clinicians. The largest study ever done on cancer-sniffing dogs found they can detect prostate cancer by smelling urine samples with 98 percent accuracy. At least one application is in the works seeking U.S. approval of a kit using breath samples to find breast cancer.

“Our study demonstrates the use of dogs might represent in the future a real clinical opportunity if used together with common diagnostic tools,” said Gian Luigi Taverna, the author of the prostate cancer research reported yesterday at the American Urological Association in Boston.

While smaller studies have long shown dogs can sniff out a range of illnesses, the question of whether they can be used on a large-scale basis to find disease has drawn skepticism. Questions remain on whether one type of dog is better than another, how to systemize their use and the financial viability of any such system. As a result, most current research is looking at how to copy the canine abilty to smell disease either with a machine or a chemical test.

‘Method Reproducible’

“Our standardized method is reproducible, low cost and noninvasive for the patients and for the dogs,” said Taverna, the head of urology pathology at Istituto Clinico Humanitas in Rozzano, Italy, in an e-mail.

Taverna tested the ability of two professionally trained explosive detection dogs, Zoe and Liu, in 677 cases to assess their accuracy, according to his paper. The next step, according to Taverna, will be to extend the research into prostate cancer subgroups and to other urological malignancies.

The results may one day be used to help develop an electronic nose that follows nature’s lead in how a canine snout works, he said.

Taverna’s finding comes at a time when use of standard PSA testing for prostate cancer is being challenged as not accurate enough, with false positives leading to unnecessary treatment.

In 2012, the Preventive Services Task Force, which reports on medical issues to the U.S. Congress, recommended that healthy men shouldn’t be screened for prostate cancer using PSA tests after research showed that false positive rates of men tested may be as high as 80 percent. The test measures a protein made by prostate cells called prostate-specific antigen.

Volatile Compounds

When dogs sniff for cancer, they are detecting the chemicals emitted by a tumor. These chemicals are referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs have been found in the breath of lung cancer patients and colon cancer patients, as well as in the urine of prostate cancer patients. The most recent findings have spurred increased interest in dog cancer-detection research, including efforts to develop devices that can mimic the animal’s exquisite olfactory system.

Dina Zaphiris, a nationally recognized dog trainer who works with canines on federally funded studies in detecting early cancer in humans, is leading the charge for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance of a system that would use the unique olfactory talents of dogs in medical care.

In 2009, Zaphiris, a dog trainer for 25 years with an extensive list of celebrity clients and an education in biology, founded the In Situ Foundation, a nonprofit organization that trains cancer-sniffing dogs and conducts research in the field.

‘Early Warning’

Her organization is in the process of submitting an FDA application for approval of a canine medical scent detection kit. In her system, patients exhale through a tube on to a cloth, which captures molecules, or VOCs, of a malignancy. Trained dogs would then sniff the cloths for their presence.

The dog screening would be an “early warning test,” she said, possibly used in connection with a mammogram for reviewing results before proceeding to a biopsy.

“You should see the amount of e-mails I get saying ‘I got an unclear mammogram and I don’t know if I want a biopsy so could I have dogs screen my breath sample?’,” Zaphiris said.

Zaphiris’s interest in the issue began in 2003 when she worked with a research group on a study to detect breast and lung cancer. A paper on that limited study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Integrative Cancer Therapies, found that dogs could detect lung tumors with 99 percent sensitivity and 99 percent specificity; for breast tumors, results were 88 percent sensitivity and 98 percent specificity.

Training Time

Now Zaphiris is working with Jeffrey Marks, an associate professor of surgery and pathology at Duke University to train dogs to detect breast cancer, she said. It takes about six weeks to teach a dog for a study, and Zaphiris says she usually trains a new team of canines for each one, working at her 3-acre facility in West Hills, California.

Zaphiris isn’t alone in her quest to get dogs involved in medical care. At the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, researchers are studying whether dogs can find ovarian cancer in tissue and blood samples. If so, it would be a breakthrough for a difficult disease.

“We’re trying a multiprong approach,” including the dogs and laboratory efforts, “to determine if there’s some signature in blood in women with ovarian cancer so we can develop a detection system,” said Cindy Otto, director of the university’s Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia. “We’re using the dogs because we know the dogs are much more sensitive than any of our chemical techniques.”

The goal of the research is to one day produce a new screening system or electronic sensor to detect ovarian cancer’s odor signature, Otto said.

Blood Samples

The project, which began last year, is now focused on training the dogs using tissue samples from both cancerous ovaries and ovaries with benign disease. Although the three dogs in the research learned to recognize cancerous samples, the researchers have recently turned to studying the dogs’ reaction to blood samples because of lack of tissue.

The german sherpherd named Tsunami, named for her tendency to come happily at you when you least expect it, has been particularly successful early in her training, Otto said. When she’s working, she becomes a quiet, pensive animal. She works very slowly, circling a wheel containing blocks of samples. She sniffs, she stops, she thinks, Otto said.

When she identifies cancer, she sits; that’s the sign.

“She’s very serious about it all,” Otto said.

Electronic Nose

The research effort is a collaboration among chemists, doctors and physicists at the university, with a primary focus of developing an “electronic nose” that duplicates a dog’s ability to smell disease. Otto said she doesn’t think using dogs in a clinical setting may be practical.

“The challenge is the expense,” she said. “If you’re talking about screening every woman from 25 to 90, that’s a lot of samples.”

Zaphiris said the medical system shouldn’t wait for the development of technology that can accurately sense cancer with the ability of a dog. Her goal is to open canine scent detection centers that will make her animals accessible beyond just their use for research.

“If there is a machine as accurate as a dog, I say do it,” Zaphiris said. “It’s highly impractical to wait until the machines can catch up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Zimm in Boston at azimm@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net Andrew Pollack

Red Cross and Penn veterinary school develop pet first aid app

Saturday, January 18th, 2014
Animal Health AppUniversity of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine veterinarian Deborah C. Mandell collaborated with the Red Cross to create a first aid application for pet owners to use during animal health emergencies. Dr. Mandell has written books on animal medical emergencies but says the app includes just the right amount of information for owners during an emergency. The app, available for 99 cents, separates cat and dog information, and it also helps owners find the nearest veterinarian or pet-friendly hotel.
By Robert Moran, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

Is your cat breathing normally?

There’s an app for that – for knowing what’s normal, that is.

Is your dog not breathing?

Hopefully you will have watched the dog CPR video on the American Red Cross’ new mobile app called “Pet First Aid.”

The app, available for 99 cents on Apple and Android mobile devices, went on sale in December, but the Red Cross launched its awareness campaign on Thursday in Philadelphia.

The Philly connection comes from the humanitarian agency’s collaboration with University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Since 2006, Deborah C. Mandell, a staff veterinarian and adjunct associate professor at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, has served as a pet care advisor to the Red Cross, writing separate books on first aid for cats and dogs, and developing Red Cross instructional courses for pet owners around the country.

Mandell said the app gives users information “right at your fingertips when you need it,” such as knowing “what’s normal so they can know what’s abnormal much sooner.”

For anybody who wants in-depth information about pet first aid, however, “the app is certainly not a replacement for our first aid books,” Mandell said.

Several pet first aid apps have been available since 2009, when Jive Media launched an app.

Red Cross officials said its organization’s reputation, and its association with Penn Vet, should be an advantage in the marketplace.

Unlike the Jive Media app, which costs $3.99 and hasn’t been updated since 2010, the Red Cross app separates information about cats and dogs

“You could look at it as two apps in one,” said Paul Munn, who helped develop the app for the Red Cross.

The app also uses GPS to locate the nearest veterinary hospital or pet-friendly hotel during emergencies.

Users can enter information about their pets that can be stored in app and emailed to a veterinarian ahead of a visit.

There also are quizzes to test if users remember what they’ve learned.

“They’ve done an excellent job,” said Mary Kury, a certified veterinary technician supervisor at the Quakertown Veterinary Clinic, who downloaded the app this week.

“They went through the most common emergencies we see on a daily basis,” Kury said.

She also praised the app for providing “enough information without giving too much information,” so a pet owner is not overwhelmed or confused.

The Red Cross has been offering apps since June 2012, when it launched its first aid app for humans, and has tallied 3.9 million downloads for all its mobile apps.

They also have been offered for free.

Don Lauritzen, a Red Cross spokesman in Washington, said the pet app was a bit outside the main mission of the organization.

The Red Cross decided users would feel that 99 cents is worth the cost for the specialized information and peace of mind, Lauritzen said.

bmoran@phillynews.com

215-854-5983

@RobertMoran215

Bentley, the world’s largest therapy dog

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Bentley the Great Dane

 After a nine year old family member developed cancer 3 years ago, he wanted our huge Great Dane, Bentley, to visit him in the hospital.  Because of hospital rules, Bentley had to first become a therapy dog to be able to visit children in the hospital.  Bentley not only became a therapy dog, he became the World’s Largest Therapy Dog and also has the Guinness World Record for longest tail ever on a dog.  He missed being the world’s tallest dog and the longest dog by less than 1/2 inch each.  Sponsored by PetSmart and Organix dog food, Bentley has been going to children’s hospitals all over the United States raising money and awareness for canine and pediatric cancer research.  In 2012, Bentley raised $25,000 for canine cancer research and $25,000 for pediatric cancer research.  He now has a children’s book coming out on Kickstarter.com and a portion of the proceeds from the book sales are used to fund free books being given to the hospitals that Bentley visits.
Bentley’s a terrible showoff and when in public, he works the room shamelessly getting petted and rubbed.  Thanks for your support.  Patrick Malcom  

 

 

Survey helps owners make objective decisions about cancer care

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

The Pet Quality of Life Survey is designed to help owners by providing objective criteria they can use to decide if treating cancer is the right choice. Veterinarian Maria Iliopoulou developed the survey for dog owners but has plans to revise it so cat owners can use it too. Business Insider (9/19)

More than 73 million U.S. households own a pet and altogether they spend $53 billion per year to care for them.

 

More than half of that budget goes toward medical treatment, with money spent on supplies and OTC medications rising by more than 7% in 2012.

But where do you draw the line between keeping Fido healthy and compromising your finances to give him a few more months of playtime?

“It’s a very difficult situation [for both patients and veterinarians],” said Dr. Kristen Frank, an internist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  “I’ve had pet owners who don’t necessarily have $15,000 to spend to treat a terminal illness, but they’ve done it anyway through borrowing money or credit cards.”

Emergency treatments can range from $1,500 to $4,000 for dogs, according to Frank, with cancer treatment sometimes costing twice as much or more.

Sometimes, the decision to forego medical care has more to do with the emotional cost of watching a beloved pet go than the potential financial burden.

“Recently I saw a woman who specifically said that her other cat passed way from cancer and she did everything including chemo and she said she did not want to go through that again,” Frank said.

Unlike hospitals for humans, vets don’t typically have the same flexibility to work with pet owners who can’t afford treatments. Pet insurance can be handy, but it often comes with maximum coverage limits, steep deductibles, and pre-existing conditions clauses.

“Payment plans are also hard to come by,” Frank said. “The financial aspect of veterinary care is toughest thing our people have to deal with on a daily basis …We all wish we could provide free care but unfortunately it’s just not possible.”

But how does a pet owner decide whether to pay for treatment or let their pet go?

There is no one-size-fit-all answer, but a Michigan State University research may have found a simple way to help pet owners through such difficult times.

“Pets are like surrogate children,” said Maria Iliopoulou. “In some cases, when a human bond evolves, it makes the decision more difficult.”

Iliopoulou, who owns a small menagerie of pets herself, set out in 2009 to create a “Quality of Life Survey for Canine Cancer Patients” that dog owners can use to look at medical treatment with an unbiased eye.

Before each visit, Iliopoulou suggests dog owners complete the survey, which asks basic questions to help them track major quality of life indicators for canines — play behavior, signs of illness, and overall happiness.

“What we were trying to do with the research was to isolate the emotions to help people make the best decisions for their pet and for themselves,” she said. “It helps the owner to pay attention to specific observable changes and transfer this info to the veterinarian.”

So far, the survey is applicable only to dogs, but Iliopoulou plans on continuing her research in order to create similar tools for a range of animals, like cats, birds, etc.

CLICK HERE to view the survey.

Rare bird hatched from surrogate egg

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

hatching_egg.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scaleA team of scientists in Dubai hatched a rare bird from a chicken egg, a potentially groundbreaking conservation advancement. The method involved the transfer of fertilized yolk from the houbara bustard, a threatened desert bird in the Middle East, into the white of the chicken egg. TreeHugger (8/28)

Researchers from the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai say that have just successfully hatched a rare bird species from the egg of a chicken.

In a development being heralded as a major advancement for conservation, a team of scientists have proven that embryonic transfer from one bird species’ egg can successfully develop in that of another. Fertilized yolk from a houbara bustard, a threatened desert bird native to the Middle East, was placed into the ‘white’ of a surrogate chicken egg.

And sure enough, the transferred bustard chick embryos continued to grow and hatch normally, despite the unnatural setting of their development.

While the technique still has some refining, scientists are optimistic that the use of surrogate eggs to hatch unrelated bird types will be a boon to conservation efforts. For a rare species like the houbara bustard, which has declined by over 60 percent in recent decades, this method would give embryos in cracked or damaged eggs collected from the wild a renewed chance of survival.

Over the long term, embryonic transfer into surrogate eggs holds the potential to hatch birds from genetic material alone — pushing science one step closer to reviving extinct species once thought lost to the ages.

Dangerous breed debate fueled by recent media stories on dog attacks

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Pit BullPit bull attacks on humans are often news-grabbing events, but they don’t represent the disposition of all dogs included in this breed category, according to the National Canine Research Council’s Don Cleary. A 2012 AVMA report on dog bite incidents concluded that no single breed is inherently more dangerous than another, Cleary said. Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

By Tom Barnidge

Contra Costa Times Columnist

Pit bulls are in the news, and that’s rarely a good thing.

A 10-year-old boy mauled in Antioch this month had to undergo skin graft surgery and have his right ear reattached.

A Concord man, whose pit bulls fatally attacked his 2-year-old step-grandson three years ago, is standing trial for manslaughter and child endangerment.

A 6-year-old Union City boy died two months ago after being bitten while playing with a family pit bull that was described as “good with kids.”

Before the National Association of Pit Bull Huggers pickets in my front yard, let’s make one thing clear: Not all pit bulls are alike, and they don’t all attack children.

“I can safely say there are many more pit bulls that are wonderful, loving companion animals than there are pit bulls that have caused damage,” said Rick Golphin, deputy director of Contra Costa County Animal Service. “We adopt out a lot of pit bulls.”

One of the problems with trying to generalize about the breed is … well, pit bull isn’t a breed.

“The term is applied over a very broad range of dogs that aren’t defined by pedigree,” said Don Cleary of the National Canine Research Council. Pit bulls can be bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, cane corsos or a mixture of those breeds and more. What matters more than the definition is the image the term conveys — a ticking time bomb with powerful jaws and sharp teeth that can turn savage in an instant.

Those who love the dogs point to the findings of the American Temperament Test Society, which I hadn’t heard of until two days ago. It subjects all breeds to pass-fail exams that measure their ability to interact with humans and their environment. You may be surprised to learn that pit bull terriers (86.8 percent) score higher than Dalmatians (82.7), beagles (80.0) and dachshunds (68.8), although that won’t comfort a 10-year-old whose ear has been ripped off.

Opponents point to the hundreds of cities nationwide that have outlawed ownership of such dogs, beginning with Denver in 1989. Even in anything-goes San Francisco, an ordinance passed in 2005 requires “pit bulls” — the legal definition spans 99 words — be spayed or neutered to curtail aggressiveness.

One thing all can agree on is the important role owners play. A dog’s behavior generally is a product of the training and treatment it receives. Find a neglectful pit bull owner, and you’ll find an ill-behaved dog at the end of his leash.

“Socialization is important with any companion animal,” Golphin said, “especially with one that has the potential for causing as much damage as large canines can.”

Cleary believes too many factors affect a dog’s disposition to blame the breed or pass sweeping laws. He cited a 2012 report by the American Veterinary Medical Association that surveyed 40 years of dog-bite studies in Europe and North America: “They reported there is no breed or kind of dog that we should consider disproportionately dangerous.”

He thinks the media focus excessive attention on sporadic attacks. (You know how the media is.) Circumstance and environment shapes a dog’s temperament, not genetics. You’re just as likely to get bitten by a Yorkshire terrier as a pit bull.

Maybe that’s so. But the results of those bites can be terrifyingly different. That’s why the pit bull debate won’t go soon away.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Calif. forensic lab uses animal DNA to solve crimes

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

UCDavis Vet School Logo

The University of California, Davis’ Veterinary Genetics Laboratory helps law enforcement investigators by analyzing animal DNA from crime scenes. The lab’s three scientists can help solve crimes such as murder, rape and animal abuse, and they want more people to know what they can do. “What’s frustrating right now is we know there are a lot of cold cases out there where there’s animal evidence that can be used, and people aren’t aware that we can use it,” the lab’s Teri Kun said. San Francisco Chronicle (free content)

Stepping in dog poop is usually just bad luck, but for some criminals it’s a step toward the slammer.

That’s because dog feces pick up DNA-bearing epithelial cells from the colon on their way out. When those feces are found on the shoe of a suspect – one who claims not to have been anywhere near the scene of a crime where matching poop was found – a case may be cracked.

These are the clues prized by a tiny, three-person laboratory at UC Davis – the only accredited forensic lab in the country dealing in animal evidence.

“The shoe scraping I got, I remember, was just enough to cover the top of a pencil top, maybe a millimeter tall,” said Teri Kun, a scientist at the forensic lab of UC Davis’ Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, recalling a triple-murder case in Indiana in 2000.

“I remember taking it over to Beth (Wictum, the lab’s director), saying, ‘This is all I got. I don’t expect to get results.’ But I got a full profile.”

The profile from the suspect’s shoe matched a sample from the only dog on the property where the slayings occurred. The killer – who also left behind a shoe print in a poop patty – is now serving life in prison.

Struggling to get word out

That’s one of the more popular tales recounted by the three scientists who run the lab. And they have plenty of experience telling titillating stories for the media – one 2006 headline blared, “Snoopy’s poop scores crime coup” – because animals and crime together always make for a good yarn.

But despite the coverage and their unique status, they still struggle to get the word out to criminal investigators about what they can offer.

“What I hear the most when I tell people what I do is, ‘Wow, you can do that with animals?’ ” Kun said. “You know, animals have DNA just like humans. We do essentially everything the human labs do. We’re just doing it with animals. We’re using all the same techniques, all the same tools, just using primers that are specific to dogs, to cats.”

Such DNA comparisons can solve a wide range of cases: incidents of animal cruelty, animal attacks on humans, and human crimes like robbery, rape and murder where an animal left a mark behind – urine, hair, poop, saliva.

“Some studies show you can’t go into a house where there’s a dog or a cat without picking up some evidence,” said Wictum, the lab director.

Unlike in most genetics research involving animals, the samples aren’t neatly packaged. They’re often whatever scraps are left behind after they’ve aged, degraded, been cleaned away – sometimes just enough to extract the clinching DNA.

In one case, a stray dog hair caught around a power drill bit helped link a man to the killing of 29 puppies, one of which had been drilled in the head.

In another, a woman’s dog relieved itself on the tire of a car belonging to a man who tried to sexually assault her, so that even though she couldn’t pick him out of a lineup and he didn’t leave semen behind, he was linked to the scene.

And dog hairs recovered from a shower curtain wrapped around a slain 18-year-old girl were connected back to puppies her killer had received as a gift, solving a case that was four years cold.

Wictum, Kun and their colleague Christina Lindquist want to do more. They hope that every time they go to a law enforcement convention and give a presentation, they increase their chance of being hired and put to work.

“What’s frustrating right now is we know there are a lot of cold cases out there where there’s animal evidence that can be used, and people aren’t aware that we can use it,” Kun said. “Part of our endeavor in the past few years has been to try and push and get our name out there.”

For now, the lab is a humble setup: one trailer parked on a dusty side road on the fringe of the Davis campus, a tub of Dalmatian bones stowed in a corner.

But the scientists are uniquely positioned, with access to databases culled from years of research at the wider Veterinary Genetics Lab, which offers services to test animal parentage or find the likelihood of genetic disease. The DNA databases include dogs, cats, horses, cows, llamas, sheep, goats, pigs and alpacas.

“Having that sort of resource in conjunction with your forensics lab is going to be a rare combination to come by,” Kun said.

Settling animal disputes

The lab can settle disputes over cattle ownership. It investigates dogfighting, tracing abused canines back to breeders.

The lab also offers services in civil cases, usually species identification. For $150, the lab can test a meat sample to determine what it is – a helpful option for restaurateurs who want to make sure they’re getting what they paid for.

And many a hopeful bigfoot hunter has had his hopes dashed after a fur sample comes back stamped with “bear” or “chimpanzee.”

“Chupacabras always come back as coyotes,” Kun said. “Always. It’s never anything else.”