Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Texas A&M veterinary school adds hands-on experience in addressing cruelty, trauma, neglect

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Houston SPCA LogoTexas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has teamed with the Houston SPCA to give fourth-year veterinary students a chance to work alongside experts in investigating and treating dogs, cats, horses and other animals that have been subject to neglect and abuse. “We will be graduating new generations of vets who will disseminate throughout Texas and beyond with a deep understanding of animal welfare and shelter medicine,” said dean and veterinarian Eleanor Green. The Bryan-College Station Eagle (Texas) (7/12)

By Brooke Conrad brooke.conrad@theeagle.com

The Houston Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences announced Thursday a partnership that will offer veterinary students a deeper look into cases of cruelty, trauma and neglect in a wide array of animals.

The Houston SPCA, the largest animal protection agency in the Gulf Coast area, investigates more than 9,000 cases of animal abuse and neglect and advocates for more than 50,000 animals a year. Through the partnership with the flagship university, fourth-year veterinary students at Texas A&M will undergo a two-week program at the SPCA, working alongside experts in cruelty, trauma and neglect to dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, farm animals, exotic animals and native wildlife, it was announced at a news conference in Houston.

Though Texas A&M veterinary students already receive a world-class, hands-on education, Eleanor Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said students will experience an “intimate immersion in the handling of animal abuse cases” because of the partnership.

“We will be graduating new generations of vets who will disseminate throughout Texas and beyond with a deep understanding of animal welfare and shelter medicine,” Green said. “It’s truly a win-win for the students, Houston SPCA and society.”

Green said some students have been exposed to cruelty cases, but the partnership will allow students to work with law enforcement in investigating the cases — something they likely haven’t done before. They’ll also experience going to court to see how the cases play out.

The first group of students began their rotations on June 3. Joe Pluhar is in the midst of his rotation, an experience he called “unique, both in volume and variety.”

Pluhar, who said he hopes to become an equine veterinarian after graduation, was able to care for a horse this week that had been mistreated and was unable to walk.

“There’s no other type of education opportunity like this for vet students anywhere else in the country,” Pluhar said. “[By the end of the rotation] we will have done upwards of 30 surgeries. At other schools, some students do maybe two.”

During their rotation, students live near the SPCA in an apartment that is funded by the college and outside donations. The SPCA is working to add a housing units on to its existing facility, Green said.

Kenita Rogers, associate dean for professional programs at the college of veterinary medicine, sparked the partnership over a year ago after she was urged by a longtime Houston vet to contact the SPCA.

“The reason this is so special is because it’s the largest partnership of its time,” Rogers said. “Just the breadth of species that are involved here — they handle up to 1,000 cases every day. It’s not just dogs and cats. It’s pocket pets, horses, farm animals and native wildlife of 240 species every year. There’s an incredible breadth of knowledge there to share with our students.”

Proper pet care keeps us all healthy and happy

Monday, July 15th, 2013

person walking with dogsHappy, healthy pets are key to human and animal health, according to this article. Veterinarian Joan Hendricks, dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how owners can ensure good health and well-being for their animals and themselves. It’s important to start by researching the species and breed of pet that best fits your family, Dr. Hendricks points out. Pets need proper training to prevent injuries to people, regular veterinary care and good nutrition, and it’s essential to properly handle animal waste to prevent disease, Dr. Hendricks explains. U.S. News & World Report (7/3)

Sudden outbreaks like swine or bird flu remind us all too well that humans are not immune to diseases animals carry. These particular illnesses are most likely to affect people who work with animals regularly, like in a farm setting, but being at risk to an animal’s health hazards can happen in your own home. Improper care for a pet can lead to diseases, and a misbehaved pet can be dangerous to families.

At the same time, being around animals has been shown to increase a person’s well-being. The American Heart Association released a study this year that showed people who own pets have improved cardiovascular health. Animals often are used to help children with special needs or in visits to hospitals. Their presence can abate loneliness, increase altruism and reduce anxiety.

With pet ownership at 62 percent among American households, according to the American Pet Products Association, it is important people understand their risks and benefits. Having a healthy pet requires first learning about the animal you want, then caring and providing for it accordingly, says Joan Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. U.S. News turned to Hendricks for advice about pet and family dynamics.

Understand your pet’s natural tendencies. Before you adopt a pet, know what role you want it to have in your family. Do you want a pet for companionship or to guard the house? Do you expect that your pet will join you on your morning run? Do you have the finances to pay someone to take care of your pet while you work or while you’re on business trips?

“People should know enough about their animal when they get it and after they get it,” Hendricks says. “They also must be open to the idea that they may not know as much as they thought.” Even dog breeds vary in terms of what they need from people, Hendricks says. Some dogs are meant to work, some need intellectual stimulation and some need little exercise. Bulldogs, for instance, are happy to lie at home sleeping a lot and show affection when you return from work. Great Danes also don’t need to run around much.

“If a pet’s specific needs are not attended to then they will not be good pets,” Hendricks says. They can even get sick with gastrointestinal upsets and develop behavior disorders – which could lead to wrecking furniture – if a family is not the right match. There are cases when pets aren’t the right fit for the family, she says, which is why it’s important to become informed before you adopt.

When it comes to exotic animals, such as tarantulas or pythons, there isn’t as much information available for pet owners. “There’s always a health concern for veterinarians that anyone who has one of these animals doesn’t know how to take care of them,” she says.

Train your pet properly. Animal bites are the single biggest health risk to kids when it comes to pets, Hendricks says. Avoiding this danger returns to the first principle of understanding your pet’s needs.

“People treat animals as if they were people, and they treat us as if we were their species,” she says. For example, dogs often bite each other out of play, but owners must reinforce that this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable when playing with people. Work with your pet to manage its behavior so everyone is happy. Make sure your children show mutual respect by not teasing or harming the pet, she says.

An irritated cat, for instance, could scratch its owner and spread bartonellosis, commonly called “cat scratch disease,” which causes swollen lymph nodes in people as well as possible fever, headache and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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