Canine hereditary diseases more common than previously indicated

Comment from me (DoggyMom):  I am particularly pleased to read in this media release that the researchers are recommending cooperation between industry, science and laypersons.  As a canine massage therapist, I have found the traditional ‘evidence-based medicine’ fraternity reluctant to involve specialists in other fields and particularly those that are not research scientists or veterinarians.
It is my hope that we can cooperate more in the future as we undertake research into dog health and behavior because by sharing different points of view and expertise, we develop a richer range of options in problem-solving.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Genoscoper Ltd. has published in cooperation with the researchers of University of Helsinki and Pennsylvania (USA) the most comprehensive study on canine hereditary disorders so far. The research brings new information about genetic disorders causing diseases in different dog breeds. The results can be utilized both in dog breeding and veterinary diagnostics. The study was published on PLOS ONE on 15 August 2016.
Dogs have more hereditary diseases than previously thought

Dogs have more hereditary diseases than previously thought. Photo: Eeva Karmitsa

– We noted that surprisingly many canine inherited disorders are actually more widespread than indicated by their original discovery studies, which opens up the door for several future scientific investigations, explains senior author Dr. Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki canine genetics research group.

– The technological potential to test a dog for multiple inherited disorders at once has existed for several years. The challenge is to harness that potential for practical use in improved veterinary disease diagnostics, sustainable breeding selections, personalized pet care, and canine genetics research, says lead author Dr. Jonas Donner of Genoscoper Laboratories. Genoscoper Ltd. is a Finnish company specialized in animal genetics and gene testing.

By testing nearly 7000 dogs representing around 230 different breeds for predisposition to almost 100 genetic disorders, the research team observed that 1 in 6 dogs carried at least one of the tested disease predisposing genetic variants in their genome. Moreover, 1 in 6 of the tested genetic variants was also discovered in a dog breed in which it had not previously been reported in the scientific literature. Through clinical follow up of dogs genetically at risk, the research team was able to confirm that several disorders cause the same disease signs also in other than previously described breeds.

– Precisely as we humans, every dog is likely to carry genetic predisposition for some inherited disorder, so we expect these numbers to grow as the numbers of tested disease variants, breeds, and dogs further increase, confirms Dr. Donner.

Co­oper­a­tion is key to health­ier dogs

– Our study demonstrates the importance of collaboration between different contributors – academics, industry and dog fanciers – to reach novel resources that not only enable better understanding of canine genetic health across breeds but also provides viable solutions to improve the health.  The published study provides also an excellent example of the added value of research collaborations between academia and industry in a form that leads to a powerful innovation that start changing the everyday practice in veterinary medicine and improves the welfare of our dogs, says Lohi.

Ge­netic panel screen­ing de­liv­ers res­ults

The study concludes that comprehensive screening for canine inherited disorders represents an efficient and powerful diagnostic and research discovery tool that has a range of applications in veterinary care, disease research, and dog breeding. The authors emphasize that availability of complex DNA-based information is important progress for improvement of the health of purebred dogs, but it should be utilized in combination with other established approaches that promote sustainable breeding and benefit breed health.

The full scientific publication can be accessed here.

Reference:
Donner J, Kaukonen M, Anderson H, Möller F, Kyöstilä K, Sankari S, Hytönen MK, Giger U and Lohi H. Genetic panel screening of nearly 100 mutations reveals new insights into the breed distribution of risk variants for canine hereditary disorders. PlosONE, 1(8): e0161005. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161005, 2016.

Source:  University of Helsinki media release

‘No-kill’ what’s in a name?

I personally have no issues with the term ‘no-kill’ as in ‘no-kill animal shelter’.   Traditionally, this term has been used to mean an animal shelter that does not kill healthy or treatable animals even when the shelter is full.

No kill image

Euthanasia would only be an option for terminally ill animals or those that were considered too dangerous for public safety ever to be re-homed. 

In the case of the latter circumstance, it probably was easy for some shelters to bend the rules and still claim no-kill status.  If you believe that all pit bulls, for example, are inherently dangerous – or your local laws deem them to be and you are running a municipal shelter – then yes – you could claim no-kill status under the definition while killing those breeds of dog as a matter of course.

Others would claim that shelters would shift adoptable animals into their shelter and ship out animals that were less adoptable to achieve their no-kill status.

Ideologically, some people state that they would rather be ‘for’ something than against it.  So names are popping up such as “Humane City” or “Humane Rescue.” Some quote Mother Theresa who said “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”.

In other words, promote what you want and not what you don’t want.

Approximately two years ago, for example, Best Friends Animal Society changed its mission statement from “No More Homeless Pets” to “Save Them All.”

Do these changes make a difference?  I don’t know; I don’t have the data on this.  Presumably marketers and public relations experts have data to show increasing levels of support.

All I know is that New Zealand is definitely NOT a no-kill nation or a save-them-all nation.  We have a way to go to require responsible husbandry, pet ownership and the acceptability of adopting animals of all ages who end up homeless.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Dog Who Knew Too Much – book review

The dog who knew too much

I’ve just finished the fourth book in the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn.  Like the previous three books, this one didn’t disappoint.

Bernie and Chet are hired to help when a young boy goes missing from a wilderness camp.  But a missing child is the least of Bernie’s worries as murder and mayhem enfold in a small and corrupt town.

As with the other Chet and Bernie books, Chet (Bernie’s dog) narrates this story.  Chet likes to ride shotgun in Bernie’s old Porsche and accompanies him to the camp with the camp leader, who turns up dead in an abandoned mine the following morning.

Meanwhile, Bernie’s girlfriend Susie gets the wrong impression about the Bernie’s relationship with his new client…

It’s a great story, with insightful commentary from Chet.  Well worth the read!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Tummy rubs

On the side of my company car, it says “…because love and a tummy rub aren’t enough”

I believe this – since I work every day with dogs and their owners to help manage pain, mobility, skin problems, weight control, and the impacts of aging.  It takes ore than a tummy rub and affection to manage these issues.

When a dog invites me in for a tummy rub, however,  I consider it a compliment.  And you should, too.

Tummy rub photo

Norman, photo courtesy of iHeartDogs

Dogs will often expose their bellies to us in a sign of trust and this is particularly the case with our own dogs.   Most dogs enjoy a tummy rub because it’s an area of their bodies that they can’t reach to the same extent as we can.

Of course, dogs can expose their belly in a sign of submissiveness as well.  This is usually accompanied with other signs of stress such as lip-licking, a tucked tail, and general tension throughout the body.  It’s pretty easy to see the difference – although some people do get it wrong (usually those who don’t have a lot of experience with dogs).

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Pet Box Project

An online retailer in Turkey, n11.com, has found a novel way to combine environmental sustainability with animal welfare needs.

n11 pet box

When customers order pet food products from their site, the corrugated delivery box can be converted into a waterproof home for homeless pets.  The idea is to make the shelters available to stray and homeless animals in the customer’s neighborhood, particularly during the winter months.

I haven’t found any details yet about how this project is tracking, and its success rates, but it is surely worth thinking about on a wider scale because many of us now use the internet as a preferred source of purchasing our pet supplies.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Olympic diving dogs of Farmers Insurance

The Olympics are in full swing, covered in all forms of media but especially television.  I have to say that the Olympic-themed commercials in New Zealand are pretty bland.

My hat goes off to Farmers Insurance for their Flooded House Diving Dogs Competition commercial series – a great use of dogs and the Olympic theme.  A group of unattended dogs accidentally flood their home and compete in their own diving competiton.

There are eight commercials in the series starting with the Intro.  Once the Intro plays, simply click on the next video.

Enjoy watching Tank, Bubbles, Nacho, Churchill, Toby, Oksana and Montana…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Study demonstrates rapid decline in male dog fertility, with potential link to environmental contaminants

A study led by researchers at The University of Nottingham has discovered that the fertility of dogs may have suffered a sharp decline over the past three decades.

The research, published in the academic journal Scientific Reports, found that sperm quality in a population of stud dogs studied over a 26-year period had fallen significantly.

The work has highlighted a potential link to environmental contaminants, after they were able to demonstrate that chemicals found in the sperm and testes of adult dogs – and in some commercially available pet foods – had a detrimental effect on sperm function at the concentrations detected.

Semen study

Researchers believe that the latest results showing that dogs’ quality of semen has diminished may offer a new piece of the puzzle over the reported significant decline in human semen quality. Credit: © jurra8 / Fotolia

As ‘man’s best friend’ and closest companion animal, the researchers believe that the latest results may offer a new piece of the puzzle over the reported significant decline in human semen quality – a controversial subject which scientists continue to debate.

Dr Richard Lea, Reader in Reproductive Biology in the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, who led the research said: “This is the first time that such a decline in male fertility has been reported in the dog and we believe this is due to environmental contaminants, some of which we have detected in dog food and in the sperm and testes of the animals themselves.

“While further research is needed to conclusively demonstrate a link, the dog may indeed be a sentinel for humans – it shares the same environment, exhibits the same range of diseases, many with the same frequency and responds in a similar way to therapies.”

The study centred on samples taken from stud dogs at an assistance dogs breeding centre over the course of 26 years. Professor Gary England, Foundation Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science and Professor of Comparative Veterinary Reproduction, who oversaw the collection of semen said: “The strength of the study is that all samples were processed and analysed by the same laboratory using the same protocols during that time and consequently the data generated is robust.”

The work centred on five specific breeds of dogs – Labrador retriever, golden retriever, curly coat retriever, border collie and German shepherd – with between 42 and 97 dogs studied every year.

Semen was collected from the dogs and analysed to assess the percentage of sperm that showed a normal forward progressive pattern of motility and that appeared normal under a microscope (morphology).

Over the 26 years of the study, they found a striking decrease in the percentage of normal motile sperm. Between 1988 and 1998, sperm motility declined by 2.5 per cent per year and following a short period when stud dogs of compromised fertility were retired from the study, sperm motility from 2002 to 2014 continued to decline at a rate of 1.2% per year.

In addition, the team discovered that the male pups generated from the stud dogs with declining semen quality, had an increased incidence of cryptorchidism, a condition in which the testes of pups fail to correctly descend into the scrotum.

Sperm collected from the same breeding population of dogs, and testes recovered from dogs undergoing routine castration, were found to contain environmental contaminants at concentrations able to disrupt sperm motility and viability when tested.

The same chemicals that disrupted sperm quality, were also discovered in a range of commercially available dog foods – including brands specifically marketed for puppies.

Dr Lea added: “We looked at other factors which may also play a part, for example, some genetic conditions do have an impact on fertility. However, we discounted that because 26 years is simply too rapid a decline to be associated with a genetic problem.”

Over the past 70 years, studies have suggested a significant decline in human semen quality and a cluster of issues called ‘testicular dysgenesis syndrome’ that impact on male fertility which also include increased incidence of testicular cancer, the birth defect hypospadias and undescended testes.

However, declining human semen quality remains a controversial issue – many have criticised the variability of the data of the studies on the basis of changes in laboratory methods, training of laboratory personnel and improved quality control over the years.

Dr Lea added: “The Nottingham study presents a unique set of reliable data from a controlled population which is free from these factors. This raises the tantalising prospect that the decline in canine semen quality has an environmental cause and begs the question whether a similar effect could also be observed in human male fertility.”

Source:  University of Nottingham media release