Category Archives: dog breeds

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Wordless Wednesday, part 46

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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

The world’s smallest dog

Miracle Minny

 

This one really is for the record books – how small do you think a dog can get?

The world’s smallest dog, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is Miracle Milly.  She’s a Chihuahua who lives in Puerto Rico.

She is only 3.8 inches tall (see photo above for scale).

Since she is a Public Figure, Milly has her own Facebook page and, like many small dogs, her owner likes to dress her up for photos.

Miracle Milly in teacup

Robin Williams leaves behind family and pug, Leonard

As the world learns more about the tragic loss of actor and comedian Robin Williams to suicide, this journalist from the Dog Channel has written about Williams and his Pug, Leonard.

I am sure that Leonard is mourning the loss of his doggy dad and owner today.

Rest easy, Mr Williams.

Robin Williams Leaves Behind Family and Pug, Leonard

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

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