Monday, March 2, 2015

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBD) in Dogs

Inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] is a condition in which the
digestive tract is chronically infiltrated by inflammatory cells, some that invade the wall of the stomach and intestine.  Symptoms include vomiting, chronic diarrhea and weight loss.
Some breeds are more prone to IBD than others.

Although it's unknown how many dogs suffer from IBD, an unpublished study by Morris Animal Foundation that surveyed a thousand blind guide dog handlers who had worked with numerous dogs over several decades identified the most common health issues in current and previous guide dogs. The study found that 5% of working guides suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Researchers know that significantly lower bacterial diversity as well as distinct microbial communities are observed in dogs with IBD. Dr. Jan Suchodolski, a veterinarian researcher in biomedical sciences at Texas A & M University was part of research team that conducted a study with dogs suffering from IBD. They wanted to know if traditional treatments - steroids and special diets - create (directly or indirectly) a more robust microbial community.

After treatment, sick dogs felt a lot better.  However, there was no change in their gut microbiota. It could be that microorganisms are compromised by the condition; they do not trigger it.  Researchers also suspect that biological environmental stresses are involved in ways not yet understood.  

The researchers said, "In conclusion, this study demonstrates intestinal dysbiosis and altered serum metabolite profiles in dogs with IBD. But medical therapy doesn't seem to affect the intestinal dysbiosis."

It remains a conundrum and more study is being conducted. When it's published, I'll summarize the results here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Kiss Your Dog - It's Good for You

All animals have microbiomes, an invisible blanket of trillions of bacterial organisms that live all over and in us.  Microbial communities vary widely between species and across individuals within a species, affected by age, environment, familial genetics and diet.  
A recent study suggests that our housemates may also directly affect the composition of our personal microbial signature, and the family dog is no exception.
If you kiss, hug, and share a bed with your dog, the two of you have more in common than you might think.  A study reveals that dog-owning families have more diverse and different microbial colonies than dog-less households. 

Adults who share a dog have more similar mouth microbes than those who don’t. Parents tend to share more kinds of mouth bacteria with their dog than they do their children. And children raised with dogs have many different microbes than dog-less kids. 
Whether or not these spit swapping microbes serve a purpose or are just passing though is not clear.  But research shows that children raised with dogs are less likely to be afflicted by asthma.

Monday, February 2, 2015

One Problem with Puppy Aptitude Tests

Who hasn't picked out a puppy based on behavior of the six-week old pooch, using evaluation "tools" to measure dominance?  
One reason that doesn't work (among many) is alpha positions in a litter, especially among females, are established only after eight weeks.  And hierarchical positions become stable only after eleven weeks. Before then, status changes repeatedly, even top to bottom positions.  
Pups are likely rehearsing for roles they'll play as adults. Nobody stays at the top forever.  Pack positions change based on who's in the pack. 
This is one reason puppy tests aren't very good at predicting aggression or dominance later in life.  But by then, we love the dog, and have forgotten what happened in our so-called puppy test, so it doesn't matter.

(P.S. - If you want academic sources for this post, let me know.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Geographic Origin of 400 Dog Breeds

Of the 400 plus dog breeds in the world, more than 300 were created after dog shows gained popularity in the 1870s. To put it another way, it took ten thousand years to create 100 breeds, and about 100 years to develop the other 300.  The graph below shows the country of origin of all 400 breeds.

This is the breakdown by country and number of breeds developed there:

Great Britain - 60
Scandinavia - 31
Europe - 121
Asia - 8
North America - 30
South America - 9
Australia - 9
Africa - 6
Japan - 10
Middle East - 16
Eastern Europe - 22
Russia - 80

Monday, January 19, 2015

What Keeps Your Dog's Feet from Freezing?

It's winter time and your dog is likely jumping from one snow drift to another without a care in the world while your feet, in spite of wool socks and foot warmers, are as cold as ice.
Canine physiology protects dogs' feet to temperatures
as low as minus 31 F.

What keeps your dog's feet from freezing?

A team of scientists figured out that dogs have special blood vessels in their paws that protect them from cold.  Using electron microscopes they found that heat was transferred from the artery in the dog's pad to a network of veins where the blood is warmed up before it returns to the body. This in turn  prevents the feet from cooling down. Dog's paws are kept at a constant temperature in cold weather.

Read more in BBC Nature News.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mutt Facts

MARS VET LAB says there are 38 million mutts in the U.S., meaning about 50% of US dogs are of mixed parentage. And they should know as they own the monopoly on the DNA test franchise. 

But that's a whole lot less than the Humane Society's estimate. They say around 70% are mixes. There are 61 million mongrels in the U.S. within the 83.3 million pet dog population. Additionally, 75% of shelter dogs are mutts.  And 20% of U.S. companion dogs are adopted from shelters. They should know, right?

Whatever the correct answer is, the good news is that shelter euthanasia has decreased significantly in the last few years because shelter volunteers, bless them, socialize the canine inmates, so more people are adopting.  

Do mutts have fewer genetic health issues?  Yes and no. It's true that a mutt with, for instance, a distant Golden Retriever ancestor will have a lower incidence of cancer than a purebred Golden. But a mutt that's only one generation removed from her purebred parent may have the same risk. Although pups have 50% of each parent's genes or variants of the gene, you don't know which parent's genes will be expressed.

Overall the incidence of genetic pathologies in mixed breeds is a little lower than their purebred counterparts.  Read more details about disease averages at this site.  

But I won't argue which dogs are the best.  Mutts of course. Here are some of mine:

Lollie, Jess, Izzy, Gus and Chance

Monday, December 29, 2014


UPDATE:  AND THEN UPDATE AGAIN: Pope Francis says dogs go to heaven! Not exactly. Soon after he made the statement, conservative theologians came back saying he was only speaking conversationally. "Dog don't have souls hence have no place in heaven". Oh please.  Dog is God spelled backwards.

Will Rogers said, "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

The Rogers family
Do dogs go to heaven?  Of course they do.  But if you're wondering which religions sanction the dog's eternal salvation, here's a list of answers.

  • Mormons? Yes.  Uh Oh. Watch out Mitt Romney.
  • Buddhists? It's complicated.
  • John Calvin, founder of Calvinism? Yes.
  • Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism? Yes.  He had a number of lap dogs in his little itty bitty committee.
  • Hindus? All animals have souls. That's all they'll commit to.
  • Baptists?  No way (correction -one of my readers commented that it depends on the church.)
  • Buddhists? No.
  • Unitarians? Can't say.
  • Muslims? No.
  • Jews? Hedging their bets, but leaning toward not so much to maybe.
  • The Bible?  It depends on who's translating the text.
  • Protestants? There's is no biblical assurance that pets will be in heaven (see The Bible above.)
  • Catholics? No then yes, then no. See update above.

Saint Roch is the dog's patron saint. Read more about Saint Roch here.

And if your church believes that dogs go to heaven, let me know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Doberman Pinscher History in Vintage Photos

"The Doberman Pinscher, one of the most important and distinctive of German terriers, is a large and handsome black-and-tan dog, of about the same weight as our Airedale. He is built and muscular, and his appearance signifies speed, strength, and endurance," wrote dog expert Robert Leighton in 1907.

These photos of "typical Dobermann Pinschers" circa 1900 are included in his book on page 504.

The breed was developed in the late 1890s by Louis Dobermann. 

Dobies today.

Dobermann, very early.
Today the breed name is spelled with only one "N", as in Doberman Pinscher.

First Chancellor of Germany, Otto Von Bismark, about 1890
Are these Dobies?

About 1940
Ear cropping is illegal in most of Europe although still
widely practiced in the US and parts of Canada.
Dr. Barkman says that the best ear is the one nature intended.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ivermectin Sensitivity in Nine Herding Breeds

This is from an article I wrote for The Bark. You can read the entire piece, Deconstructing Gene Pools: Dr. Mark Neff and his team uncover the surprising origin of a potentially deadly mutation (The Bark, issue 34, Jan/Feb 2006).

“Recent research has shown that a single mutated gene, unnoticed for over a century, is responsible for sensitivity to several modern medicines. These adverse drug responses can cause illness or death in dogs that harbor the mutation, including nine herding breeds.”

The ubiquitous working collies and spaniels of Europe spawned a number of the breeds created during the prosperous, class-conscious Victorian era. In the age of upward mobility, those on the way up claimed many of the privileges of the upper class, including the luxury of breeding, showing and “creating” pedigreed animals.
Clockwise: Four of nine affected herding breeds with frequency of mutation:
Silken Windhound (17.9%), Long Haired Whippet 41.6%),
Miniature Aussie (25.9%), and Collie (highest frequency - 54.6%)
More than one-quarter of the world’s estimated 375 breeds were created between 1859, when the first dog show was held in the UK, and 1900, when Westminster and Crufts were well established; even the most subtle differences in weight or color were enough to allow registry of a new breed type. In many cases, the subdivision of farm dogs was an unintended consequence of competitive exhibition in dog shows.

Responding to the shows’ strict criteria for body type, size and color, breeders drew from an increasingly smaller number of founder populations to create dogs who conformed to these standards. Breeding closely related dogs to one another became a popular way to refine a breed, which today means a group of dogs with a common gene pool and characteristic appearance and function.
Unfortunately, the down-side of homozygosity (having two identical genes at a specific location on the DNA strand) can be disease and unsoundness. Partly as a consequence of this intense concentration on form, modern dogs suffer from more than 350 genetic illnesses, and today’s breeders bear the burden of restoring their lines to health.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bull Terrier History in Vintage Photos

If you're reading this it's probably because you love Bull Terriers, but then again, who doesn't. 

In 1907, "eminent dog authority" Robert Leighton wrote in "The New Book of the Dog": The Bull-terrier is now a gentlemanly and respectably owned dog, wearing an immaculate white coat and a burnished silver collar; he has dealings with aristocracy, and is no longer condemned for keep bad company. But a generation or two ago [that would be about 1860]  he was commonly the associate of rogues and vagabonds, skulking at the heels of such members of society…" p 329.

The Bull-Terrier in 1900,
Source: Leighton's New Book of the Dog

The historical record remained, but the dog's shape didn't (nor did the hyphen in the name). Bull Terriers have been redefined over the last hundred years. The photos below show how much the skull has changed.

Breed standards from 1900 and 2014 describing the head.

It wasn't an abrupt change as these photos show.
About 1940

Detail 1940
Bull Terrier about 1960 - the egg shape skull is becoming more prominent
I wonder if any breeders are returning to the old standard.  If you have an old fashioned Bull Terrier send a photo to and I'll post it here.

Source: Wikipedia