Category Archives: animal welfare

Skull shape and its implication for animal welfare

Syringomyelia (SM) is a painful condition in dogs that is more common in toy breeds like the Chihuahua and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It involves the formation of fluid-filled cavities, known as syrinxes, in the spinal cord.  In these toy breeds, SM is usually secondary to a specific malformation of the skull called Chiari-like Malformation, CM for short.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

New research conducted at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences has identified two significant risk factors associated with these painful neurological conditions.

Identifying a head shape in dogs that is associated with these diseases would allow for selection away from these conditions and could be used to further breeding guidelines. Dogs were measured in several countries using a standardised “bony landmark” measuring system and photo analysis by trained researchers.

The researchers found two significant risk factors associated with CM/SM in the skull shape of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  These were the extent of the broadness of the top of skull relative to its length, also known as brachycephaly, and the distribution of doming of the skull. The study suggests that brachycephaly, with resulting doming towards the front of the head, is associated with both conditions.

Thomas Mitchell, who was the undergraduate involved in the study, says “The study also provides guidance to breed clubs, breeders and judges that have a responsibility to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be harmful in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of the breed.  It will also provide vets with verified advice to provide to breeders outside the show ring and to occasional hobbyists.”

This research has been published online in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.

Source:  University of Bristol media release

Please also see my earlier post on Your dog may have a permanent headache, which discusses the Chiari malformation and earlier research on the Griffon Bruxellois.

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

A food dispenser for homeless dogs

It’s been estimated that almost 150,000 stray dogs and cats make the city of Istanbul, Turkey their home.  Now a company named Pugedon has designed a vending machine “A Smart Recycling Box” that dispenses dog food when an empty plastic bottle is inserted.

The machine also has a water dish so people can empty out remaining water for the animals to drink.

The idea is to support recycling and to help care for strays.  Probably the most important aspect of the machine is that it raises awareness of homeless animals.

Here’s the company’s promotional video on how the machine works.

More evidence against breed specific legislation

UK legislation that targets ‘dangerous dogs’ has not been shown to reduce dog bites and policies should be based on evidence and risk assessment, suggests a new article.

Rachel Orritt, a PhD student of psychology at the University of Lincoln says that dog bites present a “public health risk of unknown magnitude but no scientific evidence upon which to base a reliable UK estimate has been obtained in the past two decades.”

She also says that discussion by medical professionals about the impact of dog-human interactions “sometimes ignores the health benefits concomitant with dog ownership” with one writer in The British Medical Journal suggesting that “the only way to stop dog bites will be to ban dogs.”

Orritt says there are several studies that show owning a dog is associated with increased physical activity, better self esteem and fewer annual visits to the doctor. She adds that “eradicating dogs would have negative consequences for human health.”

She argues that the British news media “confound the matter further through inaccurate representation of the risk posed by dogs.”

Inaccurate reporting of dog bites, coupled with public pressure “have contributed to the drafting of legislation,” she writes. The Dangerous Dog Act 1991 has been amended in an effort to improve this legislation “but has been shown to be ineffective at reducing dog bite incidence.”

Orritt says that to reduce dog bite incidence, “academics and medical and veterinary practitioners need to cooperate to develop effective, scientifically sound risk management strategies. These should be evidence based and should not depend on politically driven initiatives such as the current legislation.”

Risk assessment for human violence has proved to be accurate and reliable and Orritt says this “might be a practical preventative measure to reduce injury from dog bite” along with medical and veterinary professionals “familiarising themselves with evidence based resources.”

She says that attention must also be given to the psychological health of patients after trauma.

Orritt believes that research is needed to improve care and an “estimate of dog bite incidence” but until this is done, “the scale of the problem is entirely unknown.”

She concludes that evidence based measures to inform ongoing risk management, such as developing effective risk assessments, “should result in the reduction in dog bite injuries that punitive legislation has not achieved.”

Source:    EurekAlert! media statement

Journal Reference

R. Orritt. Dog ownership has unknown risks but known health benefits: we need evidence based policy. BMJ, 2014; 349 (jul17 7): g4081 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g4081

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

 

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

Pets stolen in Thailand for golf gloves made from dog testicles

In this truly horrifying piece, learn about the trade of dogs brutally slaughtered for the dog meat trade.  Their skins, particularly testicles, are used to make leather gloves for golf!

Many of the dogs are pets because these animals are easier to ‘capture’ than feral dogs.

Pets stolen in Thailand for golf gloves made from dog testicles | Mail Online.

Smugglers kidnap pet dogs as they are easier to catch than strays, and sell the skin to leather manufacturers in China and Vietnam Copyright EPA

Smugglers kidnap pet dogs as they are easier to catch than strays, and sell the skin to leather manufacturers in China and Vietnam
Copyright EPA

Mine: The Movie

Mine the movie

Followers will have to forgive me for taking so long to see this film.

In my defense, I have tried to view it since the film came out in 2010.  I made contact with the filmmakers at the time and there we no screenings in New Zealand that had been planned. Our local independent cinema chain never responded to my enquiries (by phone and email) to show the film and then we had our big earthquakes of 2011 which not only destroyed our arthouse cinemas, but also took my attention away for a considerable time.

I have finally managed to watch the DVD while visiting relatives who rented it on Netflix. I’m so glad we did.  It was everything I hoped it would be.

This award-winning documentary follows the story of pet owners who were separated from their animals during the haphazard and uncoordinated evacuation of New Orleans in 2005 before Hurricane Katrina hit with full force.  The animal rescue efforts were undertaken by many volunteers, but without infrastructure for central coordination.

This film tells the stories of Bandit, JJ, Precious, Max and other dogs and their owners and their fight to be re-united.

Be prepared with tissues – some of the footage and stories are heart-breaking; others joyous.

Hurricane Katrina taught us a lot about animal disaster planning and I hope we never face a catastrophe on this scale again.  My friends at Best Friends Animal Society continue to care for some Katrina survivors today.  Their numbers are, of course, dwindling with time.

If you have a Hurricane Katrina story to share, please reply to this blog post.