Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cross-breeding to eradicate Chiari syndrome

In a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists from the University of Surrey, working with an experienced breeder in the Netherlands, examined how the skull and brain of toy dogs change when a Brussels Griffon with Chiari-like malformation is crossed with an Australian Terrier.  The succeeding hybrid puppy is then back crossed to a Brussels Griffon to give some of the features of the Brussels Griffon, but keeping the longer skull of the Australian Terrier.

Griffon and cross breed

Second-generation backcross and purebred Brussel Griffon Sire Photo credit: Henny van der Berg

The results from the study showed it is possible to breed a dog which had the external features of a short-nosed Brussels Griffon and reduce the risk of Chiari malformation, a debilitating condition found in toy dogs and affecting 1 in 1,280 humans.  The disease is characterised by premature fusion of skull bones forcing parts of the brain to push through the opening in the back of the skull causing fluid filled cavities to develop in the spinal cord. Chiari malformation causes headaches, problems with walking or even paralysis and has become prevalent in some toy breed dogs as a result of selective breeding.

The breeder, Henny van der Berg proposed the project idea after an accidental mating between two of her dogs.  The four-year study analysed five traits on magnetic resonance images (MRI) scans and how they changed generation by generation in the family of 29 dogs.  Using a careful selection of head shape and MRI scans over two generations, the findings revealed it was possible to breed a dog which had the external features of a Brussels Griffon, but is less susceptible to Chiari malformation.

“This is a true collaboration with breeders and researchers working together and using their expertise to improve the health of dogs,” said Dr Clare Rusbridge from the University of Surrey.

“Our study investigated how the characteristics of this disease is inherited in the family.  Such knowledge could help in tackling this debilitating disease in toy dog breeds.  We hope our research will help develop more sophisticated ways of screening and improve breeding guidelines by creating robust breeding values.”

The team at the University of Surrey is now collaborating with geneticists at the University of Montreal, and correlating the skull and brain traits visualised on magnetic resonance images with the dog genome. This information will then be translated to humans.

Source:  University of Surrey media release

My other posts about Chiari malformation include:

Joey and the Pit Bull


People who have autism are often misunderstood.  So are Pit Bulls.  These two make a great pair.

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

 

Prepared for dew claw and nail injuries

Izzy is a greyhound, a breed that seems predisposed to a lot of dew claw injuries.  Her last one occurred in February, when running after another dog’s tennis ball at the dog park.

I am now better prepared for nail injuries – with the easy addition of some cornflour (corn starch for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere) in my first aid kit.

You don’t need a fancy styptic pencil in your first aid kit to stop the bleeding of a nail injury; this good old fashioned powder will do the job.  I’ve placed mine in a recycled prescription pill bottle.

Corn flour for dew claw injuries

If a nail injury occurs, you want to stop the bleeding which can be profuse.  Apply pressure and this powder to stem the bleeding.  Once stopped, then you can clean the wound properly with water and antiseptic and wrap the paw to keep it  clean.  Changing the bandage every day, re-applying antiseptic, is important.

Some nail injuries are worse than others; some will heal without veterinary help.  In our last case, the quick was fully exposed (ouch!) and despite my efforts to keep it clean and dry, it became red/irritated and infected. (This is why you have to change the bandage every day and check for signs of infection).

A short course of antibiotics prescribed by our vet took care of the job.

I’m much more confident now that I have my container of cornflour in our first aid kit.

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

 

 

 

Homeopathics, in pack order

The Telegraph has reported this week that Queen Elizabeth II feeds her dogs in ‘order of seniority’  and that the dogs consume a range of herbal and homeopathic remedies.

Queen with Corgi

The Queen of England couldn’t be more Establishment and yet – there she is – open-minded enough to recognise that herbals and homeopathics may help keep her Corgis in good health, for longer.

I respect her for that.

It’s long been reported and known that the Queen is an animal-lover.  Dr Mugford, an animal psychologist who has worked with the Queen’s dogs says “The Queen has definite views about how dogs should be cared for: she doesn’t tolerate unkindness, and I remember she took a very dim view of President Lyndon B Johnson picking his dogs up by their ears.”

Queen Elizabeth has made the decision fairly recently not to replace her Corgis when they pass away, which has been a long-standing tradition in her household.  This is surely a sign that the Queen is feeling the pressures of time and old age.  She doesn’t want to bring dogs into the household when it’s highly likely they will out-live her.

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

 

 

Patience

Patience

Some people find it hard to believe that a dog professional like myself has never raised a dog from a puppy.  That’s because my family raised me with the idea that you adopt, rather than buy, a dog.  And by default that has steered me into a life with re-homed dogs – both mixed breeds and purebreds – who have entered my life at different ages.

My first dog came from a shelter; my second came from a supermarket ‘free to a good home’ ad; my third was a private adoption facilitated by a local rescue group (but she had never lived in their shelter); my fourth was a word-of-mouth adoption of Daisy, a purebred Pointer, who had bounced back to her breeder through no fault of her own.  And now, I have Izzy who is a retired racing greyhound.

It’s a myth that ‘rescue’ dogs are all mixed breeds; many pure bred dogs also find themselves in need of re-homing.  Responsible breeders will take back a dog for any reason during the lifetime of the dog.  So, for example, in cases of divorce or an owner’s death, these dogs come up for adoption – and that’s only a couple of examples.  There are also breed specific rescue groups who are passionate supporters of a breed and work to re-home dogs who have fallen on bad times.

What my life of adopting dogs has taught me is patience.  It’s great to go out and buy the dog a bed, food and toys and envisage a perfect life together.  And it will be good- but there are usually teething problems.

For example, when I adopted Izzy , she was suffering from re-homing stress.  She was overwhelmed by her surroundings in my home – it was totally foreign territory.  She was off her food and made herself a bed on a blanket by the front door.  She remained there for almost 2 weeks (only moving to eat or drink or go out for walks) until she got her confidence to explore more of the house.

It took her 2 months to venture confidently into my bedroom (where large windows looking out onto the garden seemed to overwhelm her).  She did not get on my bed for almost 4 months.

We had a few toileting incidents but that was also because she was getting used to new food and was already stressed from her change of circumstances.  Whose tummy wouldn’t cause them problems?

But we got there and that takes patience.  When I do home-checking for Greyhounds as Pets, I get an idea about how well the family is prepared to be patient with their new dog.

A prospective owner with a very strict timeline for getting their dog settled is unlikely to be successful – the dog doesn’t know about the timeline.

The best advice I can give is – be patient.  If anything, give your new dog some space.  Let them decide when they are comfortable in trying new things and don’t overwhelm them with affection too soon.

It’s worth the wait.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs – part of the coping for kids of military families

Janelle Casson says it never gets any easier when her husband deploys as a U.S. Army combat engineer. But after four tours of duty in the last 12 years—assignments ranging from a year to 15 months each in Iraq—she and her four children eventually fall into a well-learned routine. “You have a muscle memory of how it feels to be without him and what we all need to do to keep moving forward,” she says.

Even Ebony, the family’s 9-year-old Scottish terrier-schnauzer mix, takes the deployments hard, moping about the house and keeping to herself. “It takes a couple of weeks for her to come to terms with the fact that dad is not here,” says Casson, of Killeen, Texas. Ebony inevitably forgoes her normal bed in the master bedroom to seek comfort sleeping alongside one of the children.

Terrier Schnauzer mix

This article didn’t come with a photograph of Ebony, but I imagine she looks something like this.

Fourteen-year-old Elijah, the oldest, is the main support for the dog, which joined the family when the boy was 5. “He’s been Ebony’s primary caretaker” whenever his father is away, says Casson. “He feeds her and takes her on walks. He just fell into the role of taking care of her, much the way [many military] kids fall into other typically dad roles when they’re gone.”

Ebony is probably helping Elijah, too. Recent Tufts University research finds that a strong relationship with a pet is associated with better coping skills in children who are managing the stress of having a parent deployed. The study came out of the new Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction (TIHAI), which seeks to discover exactly how animals help us better handle physical and emotional stress, commit to fitness and educational goals, overcome physical disabilities and recover from psychological trauma.

Animals have been a part of our lives for thousands of years. We started keeping company with them as soon as we realized that dogs could help us hunt, cats would exterminate the rodents pilfering our grain stores and horses offered transportation.

But that’s not the whole story. Why do we continue to embrace these domesticated animals like members of our family, even though they no longer fulfill our pragmatic needs? The new Tufts institute, launched in 2015, is examining the importance of our relationships with other species. But instead of working in the traditional silos of fields such as veterinary medicine, human medicine and psychology, TIHAI draws on faculty, staff and students from myriad areas of expertise.

“We bring together all these different disciplines to put some sound evidence behind what we intuitively know is true: animals can enhance our lives in so many ways,” says Lisa Freeman, J86, V91, N96, a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who directs the Institute.

Source:  TuftsNow

Emotions matter: a dog’s view of facial expressions

A recent study from the University of Helsinki shows that the social gazing behavior of domestic dogs resembles that of humans: dogs view facial expressions systematically, preferring eyes. In addition, the facial expression alters their viewing behavior, especially in the face of threat. The study was published in the science journal PLOS ONE.

The study uused eye gaze tracking to demonstrate how dogs view the emotional expressions of dog and human faces. Dogs looked first at the eye region and generally examined eyes longer than nose or mouth areas. Species-specific characteristics of certain expressions attracted their attention, for example the mouths of threatening dogs. However, dogs appeared to base their perception of facial expressions on the whole face.

Threatening faces evoked attentional bias, which may be based on an evolutionary adaptive mechanism: the sensitivity to detect and avoid threats represents a survival advantage.

“The tolerant behavior strategy of dogs toward humans may partially explain the results. Domestication may have equipped dogs with a sensitivity to detect the threat signals of humans and respond them with pronounced appeasement signals”, says researcher Sanni Somppi from the University of Helsinki.

This is the first evidence of emotion-related gaze patterns in non-primates. Already 150 years ago Charles Darwin proposed that the analogies in the form and function of human and non-human animal emotional expressions suggest shared evolutionary roots.  Recent findings provide modern scientific support for Darwin’s old argument.

Facial expressions research

Dogs view facial expressions on a monitor

A total of 31 dogs of 13 different breeds attended the study. Prior to the experiment the dogs were clicker-trained to stay still in front of a monitor without being cued or restrained.

Source:  AlphaGalileo media release

I have previously blogged about other University of Helsinki research.  These posts include: