Category Archives: Dogs

Comet’s Tale – book review

Comet's TaleThis book will make you want to go out and adopt a Greyhound!  Mr Wolf tells the story of Comet, a Greyhound who comes into his life as his health and well-being are seriously under threat.

The author never had any experience with Greyhounds until he is drawn to a charitable group promoting Greyhound adoption at his local supermarket.

A Greyhound who suffered abuse at the track, Comet is withdrawn around most people but decides that Mr Wolf (affectionately called “Wolfie” by his wife) is for her.  She literally sits down next to him and lets him know – take me home.

As Steven’s health deteriorates, he lives on pain killers and can barely walk or do simple household tasks.  This is when he decides that Comet has all of the qualities of a service dog and only needs training.  He looks for trainers to assist him and all scoff at the suggestion that a Greyhound could be a service dog.  So, he trains her himself.

I particularly liked the stories of Comet as she learns to pull Steven’s wheelchair through the airport.  Aided by the photo on the cover of the book (the only photo in this book, which perhaps is its only shortcoming), you can understand when Steven describes Comet’s doe eyes and the looks she would give him to communicate her very articulate thoughts!

I recommend this book for summer reading (if you are currently in the Northern Hemisphere) or curl up with it in front of the fire for winter entertainment (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere).

Happy reading!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

Domestication Syndrome

More than 140 years ago, Charles Darwin noticed something peculiar about domesticated mammals. Compared to their wild ancestors, domestic species are more tame, and they also tend to display a suite of other characteristic features, including floppier ears, patches of white fur, and more juvenile faces with smaller jaws. Since Darwin’s observations, the explanation for this pattern has proved elusive, but now, in a Perspectives article published in the journal GENETICS, a new hypothesis has been proposed that could explain why breeding for tameness causes changes in such diverse traits.

Photo courtesy of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Helios, an approximately 3-year-old cattle dog/greyhound mix with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. Photo courtesy Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

The underlying link between these features could be the group of embryonic stem cells called the neural crest, suggests the research team.

“Because Darwin made his observations just as the science of genetics was beginning, the domestication syndrome is one of the oldest problems in the field. So it was tremendously exciting when we realized that the neural crest hypothesis neatly ties together this hodge-podge of traits,” says Adam Wilkins, from the Humboldt University of Berlin – one of the study’s authors.

Neural crest cells are formed near the developing spinal cord of early vertebrate embryos. As the embryo matures, the cells migrate to different parts of the body and give rise to many tissue types. These tissues include pigment cells and parts of the skull, jaws, teeth, and ears—as well as the adrenal glands, which are the center of the “fight-or-flight” response. Neural crest cells also indirectly affect brain development.

In the hypothesis proposed by Wilkins and co-authors Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna, domesticated mammals may show impaired development or migration of neural crest cells compared to their wild ancestors.

“When humans bred these animals for tameness, they may have inadvertently selected those with mild neural crest deficits, resulting in smaller or slow-maturing adrenal glands,” Wilkins says. “So, these animals were less fearful.”

The authors also suggest that the reduced forebrain size of most domestic mammals could be an indirect effect of neural crest changes, because a chemical signal sent by these cells is critical for proper brain development.

The hypothesis will require testing, which will be able to be done once genetic mapping of domesticated species like the dog, fox and rat are completed.

Full journal article details:  The “Domestication Syndrome” in Mammals: A Unified Explanation Based on Neural Crest Cell Behavior and Genetics
Adam S. Wilkins, Richard W. Wrangham, and W. Tecumseh Fitch. GENETICS July 2014, 197:795-808, doi: 10.1534/genetics.114.165423
http://www.genetics.org/content/197/3/795.full

Source:  Genetics Society of America media release

 

Rescue a human…the Human Walking Project

When this came across my desk, I had to share it.

The Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne (Australia) came up with an adoption drive with a ‘twist’ this year.  They started the Human Walking Project in downtown Melbourne.

Dogs needing adoption were brought into the central city to encourage office workers to escape their offices and walk with the dogs during their lunch breaks.  And enough of them fell in love to adopt their new canine friends!

I particularly like the ad for the Project:

What initiatives for dog adoption do you think are innovative and fun?  And wouldn’t you like to escape your office at lunch with a friend who shows unconditional love?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Dog rescued from tree by cherry picker

Archie the Jack Russell got himself stuck up a 30 meter pine tree at his home in Huapai, West Auckland.  Thankfully the cavalry, Prolift Access Hire, came with a cherry-picker to get him down.  (photo by Fairfax/Stuff.co.nz)

Archie the Jack Russell got himself stuck up a 30 meter pine tree at his home in Huapai, West Auckland.
Thankfully the cavalry, Prolift Access Hire, came with a cherry-picker to get him down. (photo by Fairfax/Stuff.co.nz)

Read the full story here:

Dog rescued from tree by cherry picker | Stuff.co.nz.

Immunotherapy hope

There is a form of cancer treatment called immunotherapy, where antibodies inhibit tumor growth.  Until now, such therapy wasn’t available for dogs.  A research team at Messerli Research Institute of the Vetmeduni Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna have now developed antibodies to treat cancer in dogs.

The newly developed antibody brings hope for dogs. (Photo by:  Michael Bernkopf / Vetmeduni Vienna)

The newly developed antibody brings hope for dogs. (Photo by: Michael Bernkopf / Vetmeduni Vienna)

Since cancer cells bear very specific antigens on the surface, the corresponding antibodies bind to these molecules and inhibit tumor growth.  A destructive signal sent by the antibody to the inside of the cancer cell initiates its death. In a second mechanism, the immune system of the patient also destroys the “marked” tumor in a more efficient way.

Josef Singer and Judith Fazekas, both lead authors of the study, discovered that a receptor frequently found on human tumor cells (epidermal growth factor receptor or EGFR) is nearly 100 percent identical with the EGF receptor in dogs. In human medicine EGFR is frequently used as the target of cancer immunotherapy because many cancer cells bear this receptor on their surface. The so-called anti-EGFR antibody binds to cancer cells and thus triggers the destruction of the cells. “Due to the high similarity of the receptor in humans and dogs, this type of therapy should work well in dogs too,” the scientists say. The binding site of the antibody to EGFR in man and dogs differs only in respect of four amino acids.

The head of the study, Professor Erika Jensen-Jarolim, explains as follows: “We expect dogs to tolerate these anti-cancer antibodies well. This will be investigated in clinical studies in the future and is expected to greatly improve the treatment as well as the diagnosis of cancer in dogs.”

The newly developed antibody provides an additional benefit for dogs. As in human medicine, antibodies can be coupled with signal molecules. When the antibody binds to a cancer cell in the organism, the coupled antibody – in this case a radioactive isotope – can be rendered visible and is thus able to show where tumors and even metastases are located. When the selected isotope also contributes to the decay of cancer cells, the approach is known as “theranostics” (therapy and diagnostics).

In veterinary medicine, immunotherapy will be employed for the treatment of mammary ridge cancer (milk line cancer) in dogs. It may also be used as part of a combination therapy.

The team have published their study results in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

Source: Vetmeduni Vienna media release

Wordless Wednesday, part 41

Photo courtesy of Linda Chu, customer of Canine Catering

Photo courtesy of Linda Chu, customer of Canine Catering

Blog Hop

 

 

Fairy dog mother?

I have found that most ‘dog people’ I meet support various charities that show their love of dogs. I am no exception. Today, however, I stumbled across a special charity that would allow me to become a Fairy Dog Mother.

They are Fairy DogParents, a non-profit in the state of Massachusetts.  The founder’s dog, Ladybug, was the inspiration behind the initiative.  Ladybug was already a senior dog when she was adopted from a shelter and her adoptive family considered themselves lucky that they could afford Ladybug’s medications for kidney disease, dementia and other ailments.  When Ladybug had to be put to sleep, her owner asked that the vet’s office re-distribute Ladybug’s un-used medication to someone who could use it.

Ladybug, in whose memory Fairy DogParents was founded

Ladybug, in whose memory Fairy DogParents was founded

And from there, the idea grew.  There are many dogs who are surrendered to shelters because of economics.  Their families simply can’t afford their care, particularly as they age or develop special health conditions.

Fairy DogParents has a simple application process for owners in need.  They serve Massachusetts residents only but hope to expand.  As with most non-profits, they are always in need of donations of goods, money and time.  Want to be a Fairy Dog Mother?  Follow the link below:

Fairy Dog Parent

Kennels may not be something to dread

New research suggests that dogs who spend a short time in boarding kennels may not find it unduly stressful and – quite the oppositie – could find the change of scenery exciting.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Green Dog Rescue

Photo courtesy of Jerry Green Dog Rescue

The research team, which included academics from the University of Lincoln, UK, University of Birmingham, Queen’s University Belfast and The Royal Veterinary College, measured a range of stress parameters in 29 privately-owned dogs – both at home and in one of three private boarding kennel establishments in Northern Ireland.

This study aimed to test the validity of a range of physiological, physical and behavioural welfare indicators and to establish baseline values reflecting good dog welfare.

Physical measurements included skin dryness, nose temperature, core body temperature and amount of food eaten. Behavioural measurements included spontaneous behaviours such as lip licking, paw lifting, yawning, shaking and restlessness. Physiological measures included stress hormones (corticosteroids) and epinephrine (adrenaline).

The study revealed that dogs have higher levels of arousal, colder noses and were generally more active in kennels than when they were at home.

Based on existing research it was assumed that dogs would show higher levels of stress in the kennel compared to the home environment.

The most widely used physiological indicator of canine welfare is urinary cortisol (hormone secreted following activation of one of the major stress response systems) and creatinine (chemical waste product created by the liver) ratios (C/Cr), which is considered a valid measure of acute and chronic stress in dogs. However, the reliability of this has been questioned.

The study revealed that C/Cr was significantly higher in the kennel compared to the home environment but cortisol levels have also been found to increase after exercise and excitement, and appear to provide an indication of arousal without specifying the emotional reason of that arousal.

Dr Lisa Collins, from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK, said: “Many owners find leaving their dog at a boarding kennels a stressful experience.  However, this study suggests that although dogs appeared to have a higher level of overall arousal or excitement in kennels compared with their state at home, this arousal is not necessarily due to dogs experiencing kennels as negatively stressful. The emotional reasons for the behavioural and physiological responses of the dogs were ambiguous and no definitive evidence was found to suggest that dogs were negatively stressed by kennelling.”

“Our findings did strongly suggest that C/Cr, epinephrine and nose temperature are robust measures of psychological arousal in dogs. Nonetheless, these measures can be easily misinterpreted and do not provide unequivocal indicators of psychological stress. Findings appear to suggest that the dogs in this study did not perceive admission to boarding kennels as an aversive stressor and perhaps, instead, perceived kennelling as an exciting change of scene, at least in the short-term.”

The team recommends further investigation to determine the validity of measurements tested as indicators of acute and chronic stress in domestic dogs.

Their study has been published in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

Source:  University of Lincoln media release

Cute and cuddly…to start your weekend

I know I cover a lot of serious topics on this blog…but every now and again it’s time to simply celebrate dogs in all their shapes and sizes.

I have just found this site – Animals with Stuffed Animals – a compilation of photos showing pets with their own soft toys.   Too cute!

Here are a few examples…go to the site to see more.  And have a great weekend!

 

Source:  imgur

Source: imgur

Source:  bassets

Source: bassets

SOF dogs and their memorial

Photo courtesy of SOF K9 Memorial Foundation

Photo courtesy of SOF K9 Memorial Foundation

Special Operations Forces (SOF) dogs are very special indeed.  These dogs serve on tours of duty in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and help to detect explosives and intervene when their handler or other soldiers are in danger.  Many SOF dogs never make it to retirement because they are killed in action.

A very special statute to honour these dogs has been placed at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Fort Bragg, which has a SOF kennel, is not far away.

SOF dog statue

When unveiled in July 2013, dog handlers from the various wars including Vietnam and WWII were in attendance.  These men have enjoyed a very special bond with their animals and often the handler adopts their dog once it has been retired from active duty.

Handlers who have lost their dog can apply to have a memorial stone placed in the surround of the statue.  There is also funding available for handlers to have memorials erected at their home base.

The SOF K9 Memorial Foundation welcomes donations to their cause from military personnel and others who want to honour the service of these remarkable dogs.