Today was the second annual 4 Paws Marathon. Thanks to Covid-19, this event was different than last year. Firstly, we were wearing masks which would have been unheard of a year ago.
Because of Alert Level 2 requirements, the race director was forced to cap entries at 100 people (and dogs) and to request that no spectators linger at the start/finish to manage the numbers attending. And social distancing was expected during the race briefings.
Even with all of those restrictions, it was still a great spring day and, alongside Rachel from Bodyworks Massage Therapy, we again offered couples massage: runner and dog.
We met runners who had just completed there first-ever marathons which made it extra special because their dog came too. And some people attended the first event last year and challenged themselves to go a longer distance. For example, one lady did the 10 kms last year and completed the 15 kms today.
I always aim to support dog-friendly events because our dogs are family – and we want to spend our free time with them. Plus this event helps me to promote canine fitness and wellness – the cornerstones of my practice.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand
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.
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.
Los Angeles company Metro Paws has launched its limited edition poop bags for the US Presidential election.
The biodegradable bags feature cartoon images of Joe Biden and Donald Trump. A Metro Paws spokesperson told a local newspaper that the bags were originally created in 2012 with the intention of engaging voters and encouraging people to vote. Bags were produced for the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.
At present, it is reported that the Trump bags are the better seller…
You can buy your Smear Campaign poop bags from Metro Paws website here and from selected independent pet stores.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand
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.
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
This story is found on the internet in a number of places and it seems to be something of an urban myth. But it’s popular because of the sentiment behind it and is always worth sharing.
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.
He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued,
”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like: When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
Take naps. Stretch before rising. Run, romp, and play daily. Thrive on attention and let people touch you. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do. On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree. When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you’re not. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
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.
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.
We are all familiar with the old adage “fighting like cat and dog”, but a new scientific study now reveals how you can bid farewell to those animal scraps and foster a harmonious relationship between your pet pooch and feline friend.
Animal behaviour scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, have discovered that filling your home with appeasing pheromones could be the key to a happy household where both dogs and cats are living under the same roof.
The new research, led by Professor Daniel Mills and Dr Miriam Prior, explored the effects of two different pheromone products on cat-dog interactions in homes where owners could see room for improvement in their pets’ relationships.
Their new scientific paper is now available to read online via the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
The results show that both products used – Feliway Friends, which emits pheromones that are calming for cats, and Adaptil, which does the same for dogs – both had a positive impact on the interactions between cats and dogs living in the same home.
Over a six week period, both products led to a notable decrease in undesirable interactions – such as dog chasing cat, cat hiding from dog, cat and dog staring at each other, and dog barking at cat. Users of Adaptil even observed a significant increase in some desirable behaviours – friendly greetings between cat and dog, and time spent relaxing in the same room.
“Although we are all aware of the perceived tensions between cats and dogs, we believe this is the first study of its kind to explore the use of pheromone products to improve the relationship when the two species are living in the same household,” explained Professor Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine in Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences.
“Seven per cent of households in the UK own both a cat and a dog, which represents a large number of pet owners and their animals living with potentially stressful animal relationships on a day-to-day basis. Many cat and dog owners report that their animals are comfortable in each other’s company, but where this isn’t the case, a poor relationship between a resident cat and dog can have serious consequences for the welfare of individual animals. There may be an unacceptable level of social stress or restricted access to key resources such as food, water or suitable toilet areas. There will also be increased stress for the remainder of the family (both human and animal), and potential risks of injury due to conflict.”
It has also been reported that a problematic relationship between a new pet and an existing pet is one of the main reasons for cats and dogs being taken to shelters for rehoming.
The pet owners involved in this new scientific trial reported weekly on the frequency of 10 specific undesirable interactions and seven specific desirable interactions between their cats and dogs. They were split into two groups; one group using Feliway Friends and the other using Adaptil, with the pheromones supplied in unlabelled packaging and randomly assigned by an independent staff member such that neither the participants nor the researchers knew which product was being trialled in each household until after the statistics had been collected.
The researchers were aware that in many households, the comfortability of the cat seems to have a stronger influence over the quality of the cat-dog relationship. It could therefore be seen as surprising that it was the product releasing dog pheromones which was seen to increase specific desirable interactions.
Miriam, a Lincoln-based vet who undertook the work as part of her postgraduate degree in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Lincoln, said: “While it might be expected that Feliway Friends would be more effective in multi-species homes given the apparently stronger contribution of the cat’s comfortability to the quality of the cat-dog relationship, this did not appear to be the case. Our results might be explained by the behaviour of the dog being the primary determinant of the cat’s quality of interaction with it.
“We would like to investigate this further to really tease out the effects of these pheromone products individually and also to investigate their use in combination with each other. We suggest that Adaptil may have had such a beneficial effect because a more relaxed dog may be less likely to disturb the cat (e.g. by chasing it), resulting in a cat that is less stressed and more willing to form some form of social bond with the dog.”
Dogs play an important role in human life all over the world – whether as a family member or as a working animal. But where the dog comes from and how old various groups of dogs are is still a bit of a mystery.
Now, light has been shed on the origin of the sledge dog. In a new study published in SCIENCE, researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, show that the sledge dog is both older and has adapted to the Arctic much earlier than thought. The research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Greenland and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Barcelona.
“We have extracted DNA from a 9,500-year-old dog from the Siberian island of Zhokhov, which the dog is named after. Based on that DNA we have sequenced the oldest complete dog genome to date, and the results show an extremely early diversification of dogs into types of sledge dogs”, says one of the two first authors of the study, Postdoc Mikkel Sinding, the Globe Institute.
Until now, it has been the common belief that the 9,500-year-old Siberian dog, Zhokhov, was a kind of ancient dog – one of the earliest domesticated dogs and a version of the common origin of all dogs. But according to the new study, modern sledge dogs such as the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute and the Greenland sledge dog share the major part of their genome with Zhokhov.
“This means that modern sledge dogs and Zhokhov had the same common origin in Siberia more than 9,500 years ago. Until now, we have thought that sledge dogs were only 2-3,000 years old”, says the other first author, Associate Professor Shyam Gopalakrishnan, Globe Institute.
The Original Sledge Dog
To learn more about the origins of the sledge dog, researchers have further sequenced genomes of a 33,000-year-old Siberian wolf and ten modern Greenlandic sledge dogs. They have compared these genomes to genomes of dogs and wolves from around the world.
“We can see that the modern sledge dogs have most of their genomes in common with Zhokhov. So, they are more closely related to this ancient dog than to other dogs and wolves. But not just that – we can see traces of crossbreeding with wolves such as the 33,000-year-old Siberian wolf – but not with modern wolves. It further emphasises that the origin of the modern sledge dog goes back much further than we had thought”, says Mikkel Sinding.
The modern sledge dogs have more genetic overlap with other modern dog breeds than Zhokhov has, but the studies do not show us where or when this occurred. Nevertheless, among modern sledge dogs, the Greenland sledge dogs stands out and has the least overlap with other dogs, meaning that the Greenland sledge dog is probably the most original sledge dog in the world.
Common Features with Inuit and Polar Bears
In addition to advancing the common understanding of the origin of sledge dogs, the new study also teaches the researchers more about the differences between sledge dogs and other dogs. Sledge dogs do not have the same genetic adaptations to a sugar and starch rich diet that other dogs have. On the other hand, they have adaptations to high-fat diets, with mechanisms that are similar to those described for polar bears and Arctic people.
“This emphasises that sledge dogs and Arctic people have worked and adapted together for more than 9,500 years. We can also see that they have adaptations that are probably linked to improved oxygen uptake, which makes sense in relation to sledding and give the sledding tradition ancient roots”, says Shyam Gopalakrishnan.