Category Archives: Dogs

Quantifying Cognitive Decline in Dogs Could Help Humans With Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers have found that a suite of complementary tests can quantify changes in dogs suspected of suffering from cognitive decline. The approach could not only aid owners in managing their elderly canine’s care, but could also serve as a model for evaluating cognitive decline progression in – and treatments for – humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

Photo by Ken Reid on Unsplash

Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS) is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans in that cognitive decline is associated with the development of amyloid plaques as well as cortical atrophy, a progressive degeneration of brain tissue. CCDS is also challenging to diagnose. Traditionally, CCDS is diagnosed based on ruling out any obvious physical conditions and an owner’s answers to a questionnaire.

“One problem with the current approach is that questionnaires only capture a constellation of home behaviors,” says Natasha Olby, the Dr. Kady M. Gjessing and Rahna M. Davidson Distinguished Chair in Gerontology at North Carolina State University and co-senior author of a paper describing the work. “There can be other reasons for what an owner may perceive as cognitive decline – anything from an undiagnosed infection to a brain tumor.”

Olby and co-senior author Margaret Gruen, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at NC State, wanted to determine whether cognitive function could be accurately quantified in dogs.

“Our goal was to bring together multiple tools in order to get a more complete picture of how CCDS presents in dogs,” Gruen says.

To that end, the researchers recruited 39 dogs from 15 breeds. All of them were in the senior and geriatric age range, but in good health overall. A dog is considered “senior” if it is in the last 25% of its expected life span based on breed and size, and geriatric beyond that.

The dogs underwent physical and orthopedic exams, as well as lab work that included a blood test that is a marker of neuronal death. Their owners filled out two commonly used diagnostic questionnaires, and then the dogs participated in a series of cognitive tests designed to assess executive function, memory and attention.

“The approach we took isn’t necessarily designed to be diagnostic; instead, we want to use these tools to be able to identify dogs at an early stage and be able to follow them as the disease progresses, quantifying the changes,” Olby says.

The team found that cognitive and blood test results correlated well with the questionnaire scores, suggesting that a multi-dimensional approach can be used to quantify cognitive decline in aging dogs.

“Being able to diagnose and quantify CCDS in a way that is clinically safe and relevant is a good first step toward being able to work with dogs as a model for Alzheimer’s disease in humans,” Olby says. “Many of the current models of Alzheimers disease – in rodents, for example – are good for understanding physiological changes, but not for testing treatments.”

“Dogs live in our homes and develop naturally occurring disease just like we do,” Gruen says. “These findings show promise for both dogs and humans in terms of improving our understanding of disease progression as well as for potentially testing treatments.”

The work appears in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. NC State postdoctoral fellows Gilad Fefer and Wojciech K. Panek are co-first authors of the work.

Source: NC State News

What does your dog’s tag say?

Sox is gradually coming up to speed with all the coats, food, treats, toys and accessories he needs for pet life. This week, I added his ID tag which I chose because it featured a greyhound.

On the reverse, it reads:

I’m Sox If I’m lost Call my Mum (and then my phone number)

I think ID tags are a personal choice with many designs available. Sox is happy with his tag.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for May

“Did you know that there are over three hundred words for love in canine?”

– Gabrielle Zevin, author

A spontaneous photo of Zevin and her late dog Nico taken on a sofa trashed in Los Angeles. “As soon as we were done, a random guy loaded it into his truck.”
Photograph by Hans Canosa, Zevin’s partner

Most US dog owners don’t follow FDA pet food handling guidelines

A new analysis suggests that most U.S. dog owners are unaware of—and do not follow—guidelines on safe pet food and dish handling from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but that better education and implementation of the guidelines could reduce contamination. Dr. Emily Luisana of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on April 6, 2022.

Study mascot, Sally Star, at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Photo credit: Emily Luisana, CC-BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Pet food and dish handling involves potential health risks for both dogs and people, especially those with compromised immune systems. Multiple outbreaks of bacterial illness among dogs and humans have occurred as a result of contaminated dog food. The FDA has issued guidelines on protocols for safe pet food and dish handling, available online, but the information is limited, and the effects of the recommendations have been unclear.

To help clarify, Dr. Luisana and colleagues surveyed 417 dog owners. They found that less than 5 percent were aware of the guidelines, and many owners did not follow many of the recommendations. For instance, only one third reported washing their hands after feeding, and only two thirds reported preparing dog food on separate surfaces from those used for human food. The latter fact is of potential public health importance, but is not addressed in the FDA recommendations.

To better understand the effects of the FDA recommendations, the researchers tested 68 household dog food dishes for bacterial contamination. After initial testing, they divided the owners into three groups with different instructions for implementing food handling guidelines, then tested the dishes again after 1 week. They found significantly reduced contamination of dishes from owners who instituted the FDA’s pet food handling guidelines, either alone or in combination with the FDA’s human food handling protocol, versus dishes from owners who were not asked to implement either protocol.

The researchers note that their study was small and that future research could clarify optimal hygiene strategies and ways to communicate them.

Nonetheless, on the basis of their findings, the researchers outline suggestions to reduce contamination in pet food dishes for owners, veterinarians, pet food sellers and manufacturers. These include ensuring household members who feed pets adhere to FDA guidelines and including written information on guidelines with pet food sales.

The authors add: “Most pet owners are unaware that pet food bowls can be a hidden source of bacteria in the household. Knowing how to mitigate this risk and practice proper pet food storage and hygiene may make for a happier, healthier household.”

To access the journal article in PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0259478  

FDA’s Tips for Safe Handling of Pet Food and Treats

Source: EurekAlert!

Cannabis poisoning cases in pets have increased significantly, study finds

A survey of veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada highlights mounting cases of cannabis poisoning among pets and sheds new light on symptoms, treatments, and outcomes. Richard Quansah Amissah of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on April 20, 2022.

Pets that are exposed to cannabis, most often by ingestion, may experience symptoms of cannabis poisoning — also known as cannabis-induced toxicosis — with varying degrees of severity. While prior evidence suggests that cases of cannabis poisoning among pets are increasing, the actual magnitude of the problem, including typical outcomes for pets, has been unclear.

To improve understanding of cannabis poisoning in pets, Amissah and colleagues analyzed survey data from 251 veterinarians based in Canada or the U.S. Conducted in 2021; the survey included questions about cannabis poisoning cases encountered by participants over several previous years.

Statistical analysis of the survey responses showed that the number of cannabis poisoning cases jumped significantly in both the U.S. and Canada following the 2018 legalization of cannabis in Canada. Unattended ingestion of cannabis edibles was the most frequent cause of poisoning, but it was unclear what proportion of cannabis products had been obtained for human consumption versus medicinal consumption by pets. The authors note that the post-legalization boost could be explained by increased cannabis use, but that increased reporting may have contributed as well.

Cannabis poisoning was most frequently seen in dogs, but cases were also reported in cats, iguanas, ferrets, horses, and cockatoos. While most cases were benign, observed symptoms — seen primarily in dogs — included urinary incontinence, disorientation, and abnormally slow heart rate. Most animals were treated with outpatient monitoring, and nearly all animals recovered completely.

In a small number of cases, veterinarians reported that pets had died due to cannabis poisoning, though the researchers note that other potential causes, such as underlying conditions, could not be ruled out in the study. With use of cannabis products continuing to rise, they call for additional research into the effects of cannabis on pets to help inform veterinary efforts and policies to keep pets healthy.

The authors add: “This is an important topic to study in the light of recent legalization of cannabis in Canada and across multiple states. In order to understand the mechanisms underlying cannabis-induced toxicosis in pets, and to develop treatments for it, we need to first understand what it looks like; this is what we had hoped to accomplish with this survey, and believe that these findings will help us get a better handle on this under-studied topic.”

Journal reference: Prevalence and characteristics of cannabis-induced toxicoses in pets: Results from a survey of veterinarians in North America

Cortisol in shelter dog hair shows signs of stress

In the Netherlands, thousands of dogs stay in a shelter every year. Despite the good care, a shelter can be a stressful environment for dogs. Researchers at Utrecht University investigated if the amount of the hormone cortisol in hair indicates the levels of stress that dogs experience before, during and after their stay in the shelter.

There is no difference between the cortisol levels of dogs when they enter the shelter and the control group of domestic dogs. After six weeks in the shelter, cortisol levels in the hair appear to have increased by one-third (on average from 16 pg/mg to 21.8 pg/mg). In measurements six weeks and six months after adoption, cortisol levels lowered, moving in the direction of the values at admission to the shelter. The results were published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports on 21 April 2022.

Cortisol in hair

The stress hormone cortisol accumulates in hair, in humans but also in animals. By measuring cortisol levels in hair, researchers can get an idea of the stress response and recovery over weeks or months – depending on the length of the hair examined. This technique has been used extensively in humans and other species, and some fifteen scientific studies have been carried out in dogs so far.

“In addition to the cortisol measurements in hair, we also measured cortisol values in the dogs’ urine. This gives a short-term picture while the hair measurements show the long term”, researcher Janneke van der Laan explains.

To the shelter every day

The researchers examined hair of 52 shelter dogs at four moments: just before admission, after six weeks in the shelter, six weeks after adoption and six months after adoption. They compared the cortisol values before admission with those of twenty domestic dogs, which were similar in terms of breed, age and sex. 

Van der Laan: “We took daily measurements in the shelter for over a year. After adoption, the new owners – after clear instructions – cut the dogs hair and sent it to us. They were helpful and enthusiastic, and were very interested in what their dog had experienced before adoption.” 
 

For the cortisol measurements, hair from the same location on the body was used every time. The researchers shaved the area and allowed new hair to grow during the period in which they wanted to measure the stress hormones. This is called a ‘shave-reshave method’. 

More cortisol in small dogs

A surprising result is that smaller dogs generally have higher cortisol levels than larger dogs. “We have also seen this pattern in previous studies, for example in a study on the resting pattern of shelter dogs. We don’t have a clear hypothesis about why that is, but it is interesting and is an area of focus for future research.”

Well-being in shelter

All the examined shelter dogs were in the same shelter, the largest in the Netherlands. Of course there are significant differences between shelters, not only within the Netherlands but also internationally. In The Netherlands, dogs are usually kept individually, while in other countries they are often kept in groups. 

“We know that a shelter is not a stress-free environment for dogs, even though staff members do their best to achieve the highest possible welfare,” Van der Laan says. “Even if you organise a shelter in the best possible way, there are still stress factors, such as crowds of other dogs and not being able to go outside as often as usual. And most important: the dog is gone from their old, familiar environment.”

The shelter in this study has a pioneering role in improving the welfare of dogs: they use glass walls instead of bars to reduce noise pollution for the dogs, for example. “The fact that we measured an increased amount of cortisol even in this shelter, suggests that this will also be the case in other shelters,” Van Der Laan said.

Source: Utrecht University

What does your car say about you?

This is an important question for someone like me, with a mobile practice.

Let me start by saying that I have never been a ‘car person.’ I don’t notice makes and models when I am out and about, and I most certainly do not follow things like car reviews or new model releases. I consider myself lucky to know that there are cars that run on petrol, diesel, hybrid and EVs. That’s where my car knowledge stops.

My 20-year old Toyota had served me well and I always said that 2022 was when it would be time for a replacement before it started costing me a lot of money. I also had to face it, the advertising on my car was starting to look dated because when we originally designed it, I did not have enough photos that were adequate and so we resorted to purchase a stock photo license for some of the design.

Here is what my tried and true Toyota looked like before I traded it in:

Last year, we filmed a customer story commercial for accounting company Xero and I had in my hands a number of professional-quality photos in addition to the few I had commissioned for my website and brochure several years earlier.

It was time for a refresh!

Things that were important to me in buying a new car and commissioning a new design were:

  • an economical vehicle with fuel efficiency and a degree of reliability. These are important for my bottom line and also because people rely on me to get to their homes on time and ready to work. I can’t have a car leaving me at the side of the road.
  • in terms of the business, I also think that my customers need to know that I am not wasteful with their money. Dog care is expensive and not subsidised in any way. Pet insurance doesn’t cover everything, even when you can afford a policy. Driving around in an expensive sports car or top-of-the-line SUV sends the wrong message, if you ask me. People work hard for their money and to take care of their dogs, my car had to reflect that.
  • retaining Izzy’s photo on the car in some way. Izzy was my canine sidekick in the last 7 years of the business which were our major growth years. I could not have done it without her and needed to honour her time with me
  • using photos of real dogs that portrayed the range of services I provide
  • retaining the Fear Free logo which I attained in 2018, becoming the first New Zealand-based Fear-Free certified professional working in canine massage and rehabilitation

I searched for another Toyota because they come up tops for reliability (this blog post is not being sponsored by Toyota in any way in case you are thinking that). And when I say ‘new car’ what I really mean is a new car to me – but secondhand in the marketplace. New cars are incredibly expensive and my Dad always said that once you drive a new car off the lot, 50% of its value is already gone.

In the end, I chose a blue Toyota Yaris because it had low mileage (a trade-in, not a Japanese import), a better safety rating, 4.5 star fuel efficiency and the right color to go with my branding.

What do you think?

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for April

“It’s just the most amazing thing to love a dog, isn’t it? It makes our relationships with people seem as boring as a bowl of oatmeal.”

—John Grogan, author of Marley & Me

Sox

The Conversation

“Hey, Sox. We need to talk.”

‘bout what?

“About where this relationship is heading”

Whaddya mean?

“Well, you came here to stay as a foster dog last month.”

What’s foster?

“Foster means that I take care of you and teach you about being a pet, but you’re not mine.”

I’m not yours?

“No, but you did come to stay with me on a foster-to-adopt agreement.”

What’s adopt?

“Adopt is when I say that you should stay forever and become part of the family.”

I likes adopt

“Now, just checking. You want to be part of the family even though there are house rules?

Whaddya mean?

“So when I told you that you were naughty last night.  Do you know why?”

Why?

“Because you were hiking your leg and peeing in the hallway”

Oh

“And peeing inside is not acceptable.”

Oh

“Unless you are sick.  Are you sick?”

No, I’s not sick

“Then you have to agree to try harder about not peeing in the house.”

Okay.   But you pee in the house.

“What?  No I don’t.”

Yes you do.  On the shiny white chair.

“Sox, that’s a toilet.  I’m supposed to pee in it.  That’s where people pee.”

I think the shiny white chair is scary.

“Scary?  Is that why you come in every time I go to the toilet?”

Yes.  I worries about you there and think you need cuddles.

“No need to worry, Sox.  I can handle going to the toilet by myself.  But I think we are getting off track with this conversation…Do you like it here?”

Yes, but I no likes when you call me naughty.

“I only call you naughty when you are doing something that is not allowed.”

So if I no do things that are not allowed then you no call me naughty?

“That’s right.  I will call you A Good Boy.”

I is a Good Boy.

“Yes, Sox, I think you are a Good Boy.    I think you should stay and be my Little Boy.”

I’s not little.

“That’s true. You’re a big Greyhound. But if I adopt you, you’ll become My Little Boy.  Do you like the sound of that?”

Yup.  I be your Good Little Boy.

“Okay. Then I’ll sign the adoption papers and we can begin our life together.”  


I now make the official announcement that Sox has joined The Balanced Dog as my Little Boy and companion.  He is in training to be a massage demo dog, a café dog, and to like the water and waves at the beach. 

I look forward to sharing our adventures together.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

DCM Report: Incidence Rate Shows No Correlation to Grain-Free Growth

Veterinarians and scientists from BSM Partners, the largest pet care research and consulting firm, and the University of Missouri, published an analysis of a retrospective survey that evaluated the annual incidence of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) diagnosed by veterinary cardiologists across the United States, along with previously unknown information regarding the growth of grain-free pet food store sales.

The peer-reviewed article, which appears in Frontiers in Animal Science, includes data that did not indicate a significant increase nationally in DCM incidence over time, from 2000 to 2019, while grain-free pet food store sales grew 500 percent between 2011 and 2019. Researchers also found no significant correlation between the national DCM incidence rate in relation to the grain-free pet food sales.

Researchers received information on more than 68,000 total canine cardiology cases from veterinary cardiology referral hospitals, diagnosed between 2000 and 2019. The average incidence rate of DCM, amongst these referral cases seen in participating hospitals during the survey period, was 3.9 percent (range 2.53-5.65 percent). They also analyzed data regarding grain-free pet food store sales provided by the Nielsen Company, which showed a 500 percent increase in sales from 2011 to 2019.

“Based on the data we received from veterinary cardiologists across the United States, we did not observe a significant increase in DCM incidence rate over time, which included the recent period when grain-free pet food sales grew exponentially,” said Dr. Stephanie Clark, PhD, CVT, PAS, CFS, Dpl. ACAS of BSM Partners, an article co-author and a board-certified companion animal nutritionist. “The existing scientific literature indicates that nutritional factors can lead to the development of DCM, but we did not find a correlation in the DCM incidence rate to grain-free pet food sales.”

Dr. Stacey Leach DVM, DACVIM, an article co-author, and Chief of Cardiology and Associate Teaching Professor of Cardiology at the University of Missouri’s Veterinary Health Center, noted the following: “This work is unique because we only examined cases of canine DCM diagnosed by veterinary cardiologists and is a significant addition to our understanding of DCM.”

BSM Partners is the largest full-service pet care research, consulting and strategy-to-shelf product innovation firm. BSM Partners’ research professionals collaborate with hundreds of clients ranging from the largest companies to the smallest upstart companies to formulate, review and advise on the development of hundreds of new products each year, including grain-free and grain-inclusive dog foods, treats, and supplements.

Read the journal article here.

Source: Pet Age