Category Archives: research

Study Sets Baseline for Sleep Patterns in Healthy Adult Dogs

A new canine sleep study from North Carolina State University could serve as a baseline for research on chronic pain and cognitive dysfunction in dogs, potentially improving detection and treatment of these conditions.

“The study was necessary because research on dogs and sleep has outpaced our basic knowledge about what a ‘normal’ sleep/wake cycle looks like,” says Margaret Gruen, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at NC State and corresponding author of the work. “The studies currently available are over 20 years old, only followed small numbers of dogs or dogs that were not in a home environment, and didn’t really capture data that is relevant to how dogs live (and sleep) now. We designed the study to update these findings and fill the knowledge gap.

“And for me, someone interested in how dogs develop and age, it’s a critically missing gap: we talk about a symptom of age-related cognitive dysfunction in dogs as being a disruption in the sleep/wake cycle without really understanding where the baseline is.”

The study followed 42 healthy adult dogs – 21 male and 21 female – ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old. The dogs wore activity monitors on their collars for a two-week period, and their owners filled out a questionnaire on the dogs’ sleep patterns. Functional linear modeling of the activity data showed that most dogs have two activity peaks during the day: a shorter window from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., followed by a midday lull and a longer active period from about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. All dogs were more active during weekends than weekdays.

“Since most of the participants were pets of people who work outside the home, we saw that the dogs were most active when human interaction happens,” Gruen says. “There were the occasional outliers – we did capture some midday ‘zoomies’ – but the pattern held true on average across 14 days for each dog. These findings aren’t surprising – they line up with many of the assumptions we’ve been making, but now the data are characterized and documented.”

The research revealed that weight and sex had an effect on the active periods; lighter dogs tended to be more active in a short period just after midnight, while female dogs seemed to be more active during the evening peak than males. Even in these healthy adult dogs, age had an effect; older dogs were less active during the peak activity times.

“Our hope is that this will serve as a foundational study for future work on the relationship between pain, cognitive dysfunction and sleep disruption, and as a study that is relevant to the way dogs live now,” Gruen says. “By establishing norms, we can better identify abnormalities and intervene earlier in the process. We can also use this as a baseline to evaluate development of adult sleep patterns in puppies.”

The research appears in Scientific Reports. NC State graduate student Hope Woods is first author. Duncan Lascelles, professor of translational pain research and management at NC State, also contributed to the work. Evolutionary anthropologist David Samson and his team, from the University of Toronto, Canada, created the functional linear models.

Source: North Caroline State University


New research reveals widespread contamination of English rivers with pesticides commonly used as flea treatments

Researchers at the University of Sussex have found widespread contamination of English rivers with two neurotoxic pesticides commonly used in veterinary flea products: fipronil and the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. The concentrations found often far exceeded accepted safe limits.  

These chemicals are banned for agricultural use due to the adverse environmental effects, but there is minimal environmental risk assessment for pesticides used on domestic cats and dogs. This is due to the assumption that there are likely to be fewer environmental impacts due to the amount of product used.  

River Nene, near Nassington taken by Iain Simpson – Wiki Commons (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

But there is growing concern that this assumption may be incorrect. To investigate this, Professor Dave Goulson and Rosemary Perkins from the University of Sussex analysed data gathered by the Environment Agency in English waterways between 2016-18. They found that fipronil was detected in 98% of freshwater samples, and imidacloprid in 66%.  

Rosemary Perkins, a PhD student at Sussex and a qualified vet, said: “The use of pet parasite products has increased over the years, with millions of dogs and cats now being routinely treated multiple times per year. 

“Fipronil is one of the most commonly used flea products, and recent studies have shown that it degrades to compounds that are more persistent in the environment, and more toxic to most insects, than fipronil itself. Our results, showing that fipronil and its toxic breakdown products are present in nearly all of the freshwater samples tested, are extremely concerning.”   

According to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), who funded the research, there are 66 licensed veterinary products containing fipronil in the UK, and 21 containing imidacloprid, either alone or in combination with other parasiticides. These include spot-on solutions, topical sprays and collars impregnated with the active ingredient. 

While some of these products can be purchased only with a veterinary prescription, others can be bought without a prescription from pet shops, supermarkets, pharmacies and online. Many pet owners receive year-round preventative flea and/or tick treatment from their vet practice via healthcare plans. 

Fipronil has a history of very limited agricultural use prior to its ban in 2017. It is also licensed for use in ant and cockroach baits, however only one product is licensed for use by non pest-control professionals. Use on pets seems to be the most plausible source of the widespread contamination of rivers.

The paper, co-authored with Martin Whitehead from the Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital and Wayne Civil at the Environment Agency, examines the occurrence of fipronil and imidacloprid in English rivers as indicators of the potential contamination of waterways from the use of pet flea treatments. 

They found that the average fipronil concentration across the rivers sampled by the Environment Agency exceeded chronic safety thresholds five-fold. The overall pollution levels in English rivers indicate that fipronil and its toxic breakdown products pose a high risk to aquatic ecosystems.

While, in most rivers, imidacloprid was found to pose a moderate risk, in seven out of the 20 rivers sampled there was a high environmental risk. 

Co-author Professor Dave Goulson said: “Fipronil and imidacloprid are both highly toxic to all insects and other aquatic invertebrates. Studies have shown both pesticides to be associated with declines in the abundance of aquatic invertebrate communities. The finding that our rivers are routinely and chronically contaminated with both of these chemicals and mixtures of their toxic breakdown products is deeply troubling.”

The paper, published in Science of the Total Environment, notes that the highest levels of pollution were found immediately downstream of wastewater treatment works, supporting the hypothesis that significant quantities of pesticide may be passing from treated pets to the environment via household drains. 

Bathing of pets treated with spot-on fipronil flea products has been confirmed as a potentially important route to waterways for fipronil via sewers, and the washing of hands, pet bedding or other surfaces that have come into contact with treated pets are potential additional pathways for entry to sewers. Other pathways for contamination of waterways includes swimming and rainfall wash-off from treated pets. The strong correlation between fipronil and imidacloprid levels across the river sites tested suggest that they may be coming from a common source. 

Rosemary Perkins added: “We’ve identified a number of steps that can be taken to minimise or avoid environmental harm from pet flea and/or tick treatments. These range from introducing stricter prescription-only regulations, to considering a more judicious and risk-based approach to the control of parasites in pets, for example by moving away from blanket year-round prophylactic use.  

“We’d recommend a re-evaluation of the environmental risks posed by pet parasite products, and a reappraisal of the risk assessments that these products undergo prior to regulatory approval.” 

Source: University of Sussex

Early-life diet and can­ine atopy can have a con­nec­tion

Meat-based maternal diet during pregnancy and as the puppies’ first solid diet during the early postnatal period (at 1–2 months of age), both showed a significant “protective” effect from atopy in adult age.

Researchers from the international multidisciplinary research group “DogRisk” at the University of Helsinki have found novel early-life risk factors that impact the prevalence of atopic dermatitis in adult dogs. The results are also interesting for human medicine as the disease, atopy, is very similar in young dogs and in children.

The identified risk factors include non-modifiable and modifiable variables in the pre- and postnatal age, being just before or after birth. This new knowledge empowers dog owners, opens up research on processed foods, and advances primary atopy preventive strategies. 

So far over 12,000 dog owners have answered the Finnish internet-based DogRisk food frequency questionnaire. The data allows for associating many non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors with owner-reported canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) prevalence.

As partly reported previously, an increased prevalence of atopy in adult age significantly associated with the dog being from an allergy prone breed, its mother having a history of atopy, and more than 50 % of the dog’s hair coat being white. But the most interesting for the owners are the things that they can have an impact on: early life diet had the strongest association with the disease.

Novel diet-re­lated risk factors for atopy in dogs

A non-heat-processed, meat-based maternal diet during pregnancy and as the puppies’ first solid diet during the early postnatal period (at 1–2 months of age), both showed a significant “protective” effect from atopy in adult age. The same diet also indicated protection at a later puppy stage (at 2–6 months of age), but this finding did not reach significance.

On the contrary, an ultra-processed carbohydrate based maternal diet (commercial dry kibble) during pregnancy and as the puppies’ first solid diet during the early postnatal period, increased atopy incidence in adult age.

“As the differently processed diets also have a very different macro-nutrient profile it is, at this stage, impossible to say whether it is the lack of “cooking”, the minimal amount of carbohydrates, preservatives and coloring agents, the different quality and quantity of animal proteins and fats, the non-sterility of the food, or something else, that made raw foods come out as superior for atopy health in our data”, says the study’s main researcher Dr. Manal Hemida from the Helsinki One Health network.

Additionally, de-worming the dam during pregnancy, exposing the young puppies to sun light for at least one hour per day, spending time on a dirt floor or lawn before six months of age, keeping the young puppies at normal body weight, and continuing to live in the same family where they were born, were all associated with a significant decrease of CAD risk at adult age.

“These results, however, only suggest causality, but do not prove it. A prospective diet intervention during pregnancy and at young age is needed to confirm our findings”, says Adjunct Professor Anna Hielm-Björkman, leader of the DogRisk research group.

Original article in PLOS ONE: Identification of modifiable pre- and postnatal dietary and environmental exposures associated with owner-reported canine atopic dermatitis in Finland using a web-based questionnaire. Manal Hemida, Kristiina A. Vuori, Siru Salin, Robin Moore, Johanna Anturaniemi, Anna Hielm-Björkman. Published: May 29, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0225675

Source: University of Helsinki

Study of ancient dog DNA traces canine diversity to the Ice Age

A global study of ancient dog DNA, led by scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, University of Oxford, University of Vienna and archaeologists from more than 10 countries, presents evidence that there were different types of dogs more than 11,000 years ago in the period immediately following the Ice Age.

In their study, published in Science, the research team sequenced ancient DNA from 27 dogs, some of which lived up to nearly 11,000 years ago, across Europe, the Near East and Siberia.* They found that by this point in history, just after the Ice Age and before any other animal had been domesticated, there were already at least five different types of dog with distinct genetic ancestries. 

This finding reveals that the diversity observed between dogs in different parts of the world today originated when all humans were still hunters and gatherers.

Photo by E.E. Antipina

Pontus Skoglund, author and group leader of the Crick’s Ancient Genomics laboratory, says: “Some of the variation you see between dogs walking down the street today originated in the Ice Age. By the end of this period, dogs were already widespread across the northern hemisphere.”

This study of ancient genomics involves extracting and analysing DNA from skeletal material. It provides a window into the past, allowing researchers to uncover evolutionary changes that occurred many thousands of years ago.

The team showed that over the last 10,000 years, these early dog lineages mixed and moved to give rise to the dogs we know today. For example, early European dogs were initially diverse, appearing to originate from two highly distinct populations, one related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs. However, at some point this diversity was lost, as it is not present in European dogs today.

Anders Bergström, lead author and post-doctoral researcher in the Ancient Genomics laboratory at the Crick, says: “If we look back more than four or five thousand years ago, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary array of shapes and forms, genetically they derive from only a very narrow subset of the diversity that used to exist.” 

The researchers also compared the evolution in dog history to changes in human evolution, lifestyles and migrations. In many cases comparable changes took place, likely reflecting how humans would bring their dogs with them as they migrated across the world.

But there are also cases when human and dog histories do not mirror each other. For example, the loss of diversity that existed in dogs in early Europe was caused by the spread of a single dog ancestry that replaced other populations. This dramatic event is not mirrored in human populations, and it remains to be determined what caused this turnover in European dog ancestry. 

Greger Larson, author and Director of the Palaeogenomics and Bio-Archaeology Research Network at the University of Oxford, says: “Dogs are our oldest and closest animal partner. Using DNA from ancient dogs is showing us just how far back our shared history goes and will ultimately help us understand when and where this deep relationship began.”

Ron Pinhasi, author and group leader at the University of Vienna, says: “Just as ancient DNA has revolutionised the study of our own ancestors, it’s now starting to do the same for dogs and other domesticated animals. Studying our animal companions adds another layer to our understanding of human history.”  

While this study provides major new insights into the early history of dog populations and their relationships with humans and each other, many questions still remain. In particular, research teams are still trying to uncover where and in which human cultural context, dogs were first domesticated. 

*The researchers sequenced ancient DNA from 27 dogs. Their analysis also included previously sequenced genomic data from a further 5 dogs.

Source: The Francis Crick Institute

The first re-homing of laboratory beagles in Finland

The paper’s abstract begins “The fate of experimental animals represents an ethical dilemma and a public concern.” I would say that this is an understatement. But, researchers in Finland decided to re-home their laboratory Beagles once their work was completed and documented the process of helping the dogs to adjust to pet life.


The re-homing of laboratory dogs was the first of its kind in Finland. The re-homing process was started with months of practising basic pet dog skills with the dogs and by familiarising them with the world outside the laboratory.  

The practice period lasted from four to six months, depending on the dog.

“However, we found out that the socialisation time was not quite sufficient for all dogs; owners reported that some dogs continued to be timid and suffer from separation anxiety. The laboratory dog re-homing process would be smoother if in the future laboratory dog facilities separated out the defecation and rest areas, gave dogs access to an outside area and walked them outside on a leash,” says Docent Marianna Norring from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki.

The dogs had been living in packs of eight dogs for two to eight years in the University’s laboratory animal facilities, from where they had daily access to an enclosed outside space. They spent the nights in smaller groups of dogs.

At the University, the dogs had participated in both animal cognition and veterinary medical studies. The cognition research provided basic information on canine minds, and a new tranquilising agent suitable for dogs was developed in the veterinary medical study. The University of Helsinki does not currently have laboratory dogs.

The re-homing of laboratory dogs was implemented as a collaboration between SEY Animal Welfare Finland and the University of Helsinki. A large group of individuals participated in socialising the dogs and acquainting them with life outside the facility: animal caretakers, researchers, animal-rights campaigners and dog trainers. The aim was to take into account the individual characteristics of each dog when searching for a new home for them. Whenever possible, dogs were re-homed in pairs. Generally speaking, the new owners have been extremely happy about their new pets.

For the study, the dog re-homing process was monitored at the University for four years by interviewing the participants and collecting information from the new owners.  

Article:

Laura Hänninen and Marianna Norring, 2020, The First Rehoming of Laboratory Beagles in Finland: The Complete Process from Socialisation Training to Follow-up, Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (ATLA), Vol 48, Issue 3, 2020.

Source: University of Helsinki

Tracking the working dogs of 9/11

When veterinarian Cynthia Otto was in Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks helping support the search and rescue dogs, she heard rumors about the possible impact on the dogs’ long-term health.

“I was at Ground Zero and I would hear people make comments like, ‘Did you hear that half of the dogs that responded to the bombing in Oklahoma City died of X, Y, or Z?’ Or they’d say dogs responding to 9/11 had died,” she recalls. “It was really disconcerting.” 

Cynthia Otto (center) cared for search-and-rescue dogs during their work at the 9/11 disaster site, later studying the impact of their service on their health. (Image: Courtesy of Cynthia Otto)

It also underscored to her the importance of collecting rigorous data on the health of dogs deployed to disaster sites. An initiative that launched in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks did just that, and this week, 19 years later, Otto and colleagues’ findings offer reassurance. Dogs that participated in search-and-rescue efforts following 9/11 lived a similar length of time, on average, compared to a control group of search-and-rescue dogs and outlived their breed-average life spans. There was also no discernible difference in the dogs’ cause of death.

“Honestly this was not what we expected; it’s surprising and wonderful,” says Otto, director of the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Working Dog Center, who shared the findings in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

While postmortem results showed that dogs that deployed after the 9/11 attacks had more particulate material in their lungs upon their death, it seems this exposure didn’t cause serious problems for the animals in life. The most common cause of death were age-related conditions, such as arthritis and cancer, similar to the control group.

During and in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 response, Otto and colleagues reached out to handlers to recruit search-and-rescue dogs into a longitudinal study that would track their health, longevity, and cause of death. They recruited 95 dogs that had worked at the World Trade Center, Fresh Kills Landfill, or Pentagon disaster sites. As a control group, they also included in the study 55 search-and-rescue dogs that had not deployed to 9/11.

As part of being involved, the dogs received annual medical examinations, including chest X-rays and blood work. When the dogs died, the researchers paid for the handlers to have veterinarians collect samples of various organ tissues and send them for analysis at Michigan State University. Forty-four of the 9/11 dogs and 19 of the control group dogs underwent postmortems. For most of the other dogs in the study, the research team obtained information on cause of death from medical records or the handlers themselves.

While the team had expected to see respiratory problems in the exposed dogs—conditions that have been reported by human first responders to 9/11—they did not.

“We anticipated that the dogs would be the canary in the coal mine for the human first responders since dogs age faster than humans and didn’t have any of the protective equipment during the response,” Otto says. “But we didn’t see a lot that was concerning.”

In fact, the median age at death for 9/11 dogs was about the same as the control group: 12.8 compared to 12.7 years. The most common cause of death for the dogs that deployed was degenerative causes—typically euthanasia due to severe arthritis—followed closely by cancer, though the risk of cancer was about the same as in control group dogs. 

Otto and her colleagues have ideas for why the foreign particulate matter found in some of the dog’s lungs did not translate to ill health, though they emphasize that they’re speculations, not yet based in data. 

“For the pulmonary effects, it’s somewhat easier to explain because dogs have a really good filtering system,” Otto says. “Their lungs are different—they don’t get asthma, for example—so it seems like there is something about their lungs that’s more tolerant than in humans.”

She notes that working dogs tend to be extremely physically fit compared to pet dogs, perhaps counteracting any ill effects of the deployment conditions on health. But working dog handlers and trainers can always do more to focus on fitness and conditioning, especially because doing so could slow the progression of arthritis, a disease which played a role in the death of many dogs in the study.

“We know when people stop moving, they gain weight and that puts them at a higher risk of arthritis, and arthritis makes it painful to move, so it’s a vicious cycle,” she says. “The same can be true of dogs.”

The mind-body connection may also help explain the difference between humans and dogs and the longevity of the working dogs, Otto says, as dogs don’t necessary worry and experience the same type of stress in the wake of a disaster.

“These dogs have an incredible relationship with their partners,” Otto says. “They have a purpose and a job and the mental stimulation of training. My guess is that makes a difference, too.”

Cynthia Otto is director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and professor of working dog sciences and sports medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Advanced Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Source: University of Pennsylvania, Penn Today

New research finds Australian labradoodles are more poodle than lab. Here’s what that tells us about breeds

It all started in the late 1980s. Wally Conron, a breeding manager for Guide Dogs Victoria, noticed that some people needing a guide dog appeared to be allergic to the shedding hairs of Labrador retrievers.

Aware of the perception that poodles shed little hair and so shouldn’t create such a reaction, Wally crossed a Labrador retriever with a standard poodle. The result proved to be successful, and breeding “labradoodles” took off around the world, with Wally left standing on the sidelines.

In a new study published in the journal PLOS, an international research team has documented the molecular basis of the Australian labradoodle. Their main conclusion is that animals in the Australian labradoodle breed registry are mostly poodle, and not a 50-50 split as might have been expected. It’s also important to mention the Australian labradoodle is a budding breed, not yet an official one.

These results aren’t surprising to animal geneticists. They provide scientific evidence for the common understanding of how breeders choose dogs to mate for their desirable traits, such as a poodle-like coat. And over generations, this preference leads to a strong genetic predominance in the new breed.

This is Sultan, the very first Labradoodle. Credit: Guide Dogs Victoria

What the research found

The researchers from U.S., Pakistan and South Korea analyzed genetic data from individual Australian labradoodle dogs and a variety of other breeds, including Labrador retrievers and poodles of different varieties. They included dogs from the two distinct types of labradoodles:

Labradoodles: the offspring of a Labrador and a poodle

Australian labradoodles: dogs resulting from generations of breeding and selection among the descendants of early crosses between Labrador retrievers and standard poodles and (as it turns out) the occasional other breed.

So what did the researchers discover? Not surprisingly, the actual offspring of a cross between a Labrador and a poodle have an equal share of genetic material from each breed. We expect this because each pup will have one Labrador chromosome and one poodle chromosome for each chromosome pair.

Also not surprisingly, individual dogs of the Australian labradoodle breed have a range of proportions of Labrador and poodle ancestry, strongly tending towards the poodle.

When first generation labradoodles are bred together, their resulting descendants have a range of genetic contributions from the Labrador or poodle grandparents.

Any pup can have 100% Labrador DNA, 50% poodle DNA or 100% poodle DNA at any particular gene. If a pup accidentally inherits no poodle DNA at the relevant coat genes, then it will have a Labrador coat.

Given the main initial aim of creating labradoodles was to make use of the perceived low-allergenic properties of poodles, the higher proportion of poodle ancestry in Australian labradoodles is expected after generations of selection for a poodle-like coat. This is the main conclusion of the paper just published.

Interestingly, the researchers make the important point that even though a poodle-like coat is widely regarded as being lowly allergenic, there seems to have been no research study that has investigated this. This is an important knowledge-gap that needs to be filled.

The study also found other breeds have made small contributions to Australian labradoodles, including poodles of different size varieties. There’s even a touch of spaniel.

This is a common occurrence. As soon as breeders decide to mix two breeds in the hope of combining some desirable traits, it makes sense to introduce other breeds if it’s thought they could make a useful contribution. For example, a cockerpoo (cocker spaniel crossed with a poodle) might have been mixed in to make the breed smaller.

What does this tell us about the concept of dog breeds?

This study reinforces the common understanding that, from a biological point of view, a breed is an amalgam of genetic variation derived from various sources. It shows Australian labradoodles have considerable genetic diversity, most of it derived from poodles.

As a breed becomes more recognized and more formalized, the only animals that can be registered as members of that breed are the offspring of other registered members. At present, Australian labradoodles are commonly regarded as a breed but are not, so far as we can determine, officially recognized as such by relevant national authorities.

Importantly, there are no scientific criteria for when a breed should become closed and when it should be formally recognized: these are decisions that are made solely by interested breeders and the registering authorities.

What this means for breeders

The Australian Labradoodle Association lists 32 accredited breeders which suggests the breed is a moderately-sized population in Australia. It likely produces 150 to 300 pups per year. This is a population size comparable with many other registered dog breeds in Australia.

As in any population of most animal species, problems can arise in any breed from the mating of close relatives. The more closely related the parents, the greater is the chance valuable genetic variation will be lost from a breed, and the greater the chance of offspring having inherited diseases.

Two examples of problems like this are progressive retinal atrophy (a disorder that causes blindness) and degenerative myelopathy (a disorder that causes paralysis in aged dogs).

Fortunately, pedigree tools are available to enable breeders to consider a wide range of possible matings. DNA tests, which are becoming increasingly available for inherited diseases, can also be very helpful.

The International Partnership for Dogs provides information on resources available for breeders to improve dog genetic health.

In any case, the new research results have provided an important, solid scientific underpinning of the common understanding of how breeds are formed. By combining the desirable aspects of both Labradors and poodles in one breed, the Australian labradoodle is a welcome addition to the dog-breed pantheon.

It is to be hoped breeders of Australian labradoodles, indeed breeders of all breeds, use the available powerful scientific tools to maintain genetic variation within their breed and reduce substantially the chance of inherited diseases.

Source: Phys.org


Why flat-faced dogs remain popular despite health problems

Owners of bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs are highly likely to want to own their breed again in the future, and to recommend their breed to other owners, according to a study published August 26, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Rowena Packer of the Royal Veterinary College, UK, and colleagues.

Photo by Mia Knight on Unsplash

The development of breed loyalty toward these so-called brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs may lead to their continued proliferation and popularity, despite their substantial health risks.

In the past decade, the popularity of brachycephalic dogs has dramatically increased worldwide. But these breeds are strongly predisposed to a range of severe disorders, including respiratory disease, eye disease, spinal disease, heat stroke and pneumonia, and their lifespan is reduced by on average four years compared to dogs with longer muzzles. Some veterinarians consider bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs as having health and welfare too compromised to continue breeding, while owners of pets with chronic illnesses report greater psychological distress and a lower quality of life. It is important to understand factors that influence breed choice to avoid the future proliferation of breeds that are prone to substantial health risks. Toward this goal, Packer and colleagues conducted the first large-scale study to explore owners’ desires to reacquire or recommend the most popular brachycephalic breeds in the UK.

Among the 2168 owners surveyed, 93% would choose to own their current breed again in the future, and two-thirds would recommend their current breed to a potential first-time dog owner. The likelihood of reacquisition or recommendation is increased by first-time ownership and increased strength of the dog-owner relationship, and is decreased by an increased number of health problems and dog behavior being worse than expected. Owners recommend their breed because of positive behavioral attributes for a companion dog, breed suitability for a sedentary lifestyle with limited space, and suitability for households with children. Owners recommended against their breed due to the high prevalence of health problems, expense of ownership, ethical and welfare issues associated with breeding brachycephalic dogs, negative effects upon owner lifestyle and negative behavioral attributes. According to the authors, these results can be used to inform interventions that highlight undesirable traits of brachycephalic dogs and desirable traits of other breeds to control the population boom in brachycephalic breeds in the long term.

The authors add: “Although dog breed popularity often follows a boom and bust pattern, our results are of real concern as they indicate that this ‘brachy boom’ is here to stay. Owners are becoming hooked on the loving personalities of these sweet dogs, but also accepting and normalising their shocking health issues.”

Read: Come for the looks, stay for the personality? A mixed methods investigation of reacquisition and owner recommendation of Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs here

Source: Science Daily

Big Dogs Face More Joint Problems if Neutered Early

Heavier mixed-breed dogs have higher health risks if neutered or spayed early, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis. The study found mixed-breed dogs weighing more than 44 pounds as adults are at higher risk for one or more joint disorders if neutered before 1 year of age. Dogs weighing up to 43 pounds had no increased risk for joint problems. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

It’s standard practice in the U.S. and much of Europe to neuter dogs by 6 months of age. This study, which analyzed 15 years of data from thousands of dogs at UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, suggests dog owners should consider their options carefully.

“Most dogs are mixed breeds,” said lead author Benjamin Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “We hope this study will influence the spay or neuter process in order to give people wishing to adopt a puppy the time to make an informed decision on when to spay or neuter.” 

Researchers examined common joint disorders including hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears, a knee injury, in five weight categories. They also looked at risks of mixed-breed dogs developing cancers based on weight but found no increased risk in any weight category compared to intact dogs.

The risk of joint disorders for heavier dogs can be up to a few times higher compared to dogs left intact. This was true for large mixed-breed dogs. For example, for female dogs over 43 pounds, the risk jumped from 4 percent for intact dogs to 10-12 percent if spayed before a year of age.

Neutering policies should be reviewed

“The study raises unique challenges,” noted co-author Lynette Hart, professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “People like to adopt puppies from shelters, but with mixed breeds it may be difficult to determine just how big the dog will become if you don’t know anything about the dog’s parents.”

Neutering prior to adoption is a common requirement or policy of humane societies, animal shelters and breeders. The authors suggested the policy be reviewed and modified appropriately. Shelters, breeders and humane societies should consider adopting a standard of neutering at over a year of age for dogs that will grow into large sizes.

Lynette Hart said the study is especially relevant for people and organizations raising service dogs.

“They need to take a serious look at this,” said Hart. “Joint disorders can shorten a dog’s useful working life and impact its role as a family member.”

A previous study conducted by the UC Davis researchers found health risks based on neuter age varied greatly depending on the breed of the dog.

Source: University of California Davis media statement

Study finds parasites common in dog parks

Dogs that visit dog parks may be more likely to have parasites than dogs in the general pet population, according to survey results.

Through tests on feces, researchers found more than one-fifth of dogs at parks across the country (USA) were shedding parasites.

Dr. Susan E. Little, who is a parasitology professor in the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine, described results of a study by Oklahoma State and Idexx that identified parasites in feces collected from 85% of parks visited across the U.S. She thinks that figure underestimates the prevalence because of limited sampling per park.

“Many of us have already been made aware or probably could have anticipated that parasites are really common at dog parks,” she said.

Dr. Little described the study results Friday in an Elanco-sponsored presentation for the AVMA Virtual Convention 2020.

Dr. Little also noted that one survey conducted in 2017-18 found that 37% of people bring their dogs on road trips, almost double the proportion who did 10 years earlier.

“Dogs are invited, encouraged to go many more places than was the case just a few years ago,” she said. “And most of us see this as a very good thing.”

But parasites travel with dogs, she said.

In the new study, researchers collected fecal samples from 3,000 dogs over six weeks in July and August 2019 at 288 dog parks across the U.S., with owner permission and participation in questionnaires.

Overall, about 21% of dogs had some parasites. Citing a study from 2009, Dr. Little said about 12% of dogs presented for wellness care at that time were positive for parasites.

Hookworms, whipworms, and Giardia species were the most common among the dogs in dog parks in the new study, although some were infected with roundworms, coccidia, or tapeworms. Most dog parks are open to the public without screening for animal health, Dr. Little said.

The researchers found parasites in the feces of visiting dogs at about 90% of dog parks in the Southeastern U.S., 87% in the Midwest, 80% in the Northeast, and 79% in the West, Dr. Little said.

The South also had the highest rates of positive tests for hookworms, affecting 15% of dogs and 72% of parks, versus a low in the West of 1.5% of dogs and 17% of parks. The Miami area had a particularly high prevalence, with hookworms present in more than one-third of dogs sampled, Dr. Little said.

The researchers found about equal Giardia prevalence across the U.S., with positive samples from about 13% of dogs and about three-quarters of parks. Dr. Little noted many dog parks had wading pools, sprinklers, or splash pads during the summer sampling period, and Giardia species do well in water.

The questionnaire results combined with the sampling also found lower hookworm prevalence among dogs on heartworm preventives, at 6% rather than almost 12% of all dogs. When dog owners said their pets were on heartworm preventives, most of the dogs positive for hookworms were antigen positive only and not shedding eggs, and they may have been reinfected between doses.

Source: AVMA Virtual Convention news