Tag Archives: beagles

At Kindness Ranch

Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary is a unique place, the only sanctuary in the United States that cares for animals used in research and laboratory facilities.  At this property, you’ll find horses, cows, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs.

The small team at Kindness, which is a fairly new sanctuary at only 12 years old (founded in 2006), work hard to care for the animals and maintain their large Wyoming property to the highest of standards.  Animals that can be rehabilitated are put up for adoption; the others will simply remain at the property with a secure and safe home for life.

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I have just finished a week of work with the dog care team at Kindness, discussing things like behavioral adjustment programs, enrichment, gait analysis, physical rehabilitation and senior dog care.    I also introduced them to the range of flower essences I use to support emotional health whilst working on training and rehab.

I chose to travel to Kindness Ranch because, for anyone who follows my blog, I often include items about research.  I’m a self-confessed science geek.  But I am not naive.  I know that much of the research which is published involves dogs as study subjects.  The life of a lab animal, in most cases, isn’t pretty.

The ranch is in remote Wyoming – Hartville to be exact with a permanent population of 69 people.  For this reason, if you’d like to visit Kindness (there are 4 guest yurts on the property which can be hired for your stay – and these are well-appointed and very comfortable), you need to book ahead.  The ranch is also a good place for a digital detox, too,  because the guest yurts do not have television and cell phone reception is patchy at best.  WiFi is available but is slower than most are used to and not suitable for streaming.

Dogs coming from a laboratory situation often have unique needs.  Most have never experienced grass under the feet, the sights and sounds of the home environment, and some will have healthcare issues that require attention before adoption is possible.  Many have never been house trained.  Their ages vary depending on how long they were used for study.

And while Beagles are the dogs most often associated with laboratory research, expect to see other breeds of dogs, too.  Larger breed dogs are often used by veterinary schools, for example, so students can learn blood draws, how to vaccinate, etc.  These dogs become living pin cushions and are not surprisingly fearful whenever a needle is presented.

I deliberately chose Kindness as a destination because of the special niche it holds in the animal rescue world.  It takes special people to liaise with laboratories and encourage them to release their animals rather than choosing to simply euthanize them (described as the ‘cost effective’ option).  Kindness walks a tightrope of sorts to ensure that the animals are given safe passage out of the lab and onto the sanctuary whilst maintaining the confidentiality of the labs.

And it also takes special people to live remotely and care for these  animals.

I hope you enjoy these photos of my time at Kindness and, if you believe in their mission, please consider making a donation.  Every bit helps.

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

 

Hank

Hank was the first dog to stay with me overnight in my yurt. Hank is an older boy who spent the first 7 or 8 years of his life in a laboratory. He’s a bit stiff, and has trouble with stairs (as many of the Beagles do).

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Hank in for a cuddle

One of Hank’s favourite pastimes is being held like a baby on your lap. He makes himself totally relaxed and floppy and will stay for as long as you like. It’s amazing how trusting these dogs can be given their treatment at the hands of others.

 

Rocky

Rocky is a big boy who doesn’t know his own strength (he needs more training about walking nicely on leash) and he’s afraid of men.  We suspect his life as a veterinary school practice animal meant that he didn’t have a positive relationship with a male lab assistant and/or vet students.  So we worked on setting up a system where the men on the ranch will visit and quietly enter and feed him high value treats. Handlers will praise Rocky when he is quiet and doesn’t bark and will start using a ‘click for quiet’ approach to clicker training.

Frieda

Frieda is a pit bull who loves to go to the dog park on the ranch, appropriately called the K9 Corral. She has good recall and knows most of her basic cues including sit and down. She’s very intelligent!

Gus

Gus is another senior Beagle used in pharmacokinetic studies for at least 7 years. (These studies introduce drugs and watch their effects on other organs in the body.) He’s a bit achy in the joints, too. Gabapentin and muscle relaxants prescribed by the vet have helped him a lot and his caregiver says that he is a different dog with the support of his meds.

 

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Fresh and raw diets for dogs may have health benefits

Many dog owners think of their furry companions as part of the family, and now products are available to feed them that way, too. Some owners are moving away from traditional extruded kibble products, instead choosing ultra-premium fresh and raw diets found in the refrigerated aisle. The foods may look more similar to what we’d feed a member of the family, but many of the newer diets haven’t been rigorously tested for performance in dogs.

Beagle feeding study

“A lot of companies test for complete and balanced nutrition, but don’t go beyond that,” says Kelly Swanson, corresponding author on a new study published in the Journal of Animal Science and Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois. “The company we worked with – Freshpet – wanted to see how some of their unique diets would perform. Would dogs like them? Were they digestible? Would they increase activity?”

The researchers tested the palatability and digestibility of three commercially marketed fresh and raw diets for dogs, as well as a traditional extruded kibble diet. The diets included a lightly cooked roasted-refrigerated diet; a lightly cooked grain-free roasted-refrigerated diet; and a raw diet. The lightly cooked roasted diets were pasteurized, and the raw diet was treated with an acidifying bacteria that makes the food inhospitable to harmful microbes.

“The roasted diets come in a meatball form, and the raw diet was more like a big sausage roll that you cut up and feed to the dog. All diets were chicken-based, but some had added beef, salmon, or chicken liver. Each diet also contained a vitamin and mineral mix, and a dry mix of plant products like sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, cranberries, and carrots,” Swanson says. “People are familiar with those ingredients so they like to see them included in their pets’ diets. Although specific ingredients are not needed in the diet of dogs and cats, as many options can result in an acceptable nutrient profile, those ingredients are of high quality and are nutrient dense.”

Eight beagles were successively fed each diet for one month. After a 14-day transition period onto each new diet, they were monitored for voluntary physical activity, and then urine, stool, and blood samples were collected and analyzed.

The roasted diets turned out to be more digestible than the kibble, and both the grain-free roasted diet and the raw diet resulted in lower blood triglyceride levels than the kibble diet, even though they were higher in fat. Swanson isn’t able to pinpoint the cause of the surprising result, but points to it as a potential benefit of the non-traditional diets. Voluntary activity didn’t differ across the diets.

The researchers also found major shifts in the microbiota – the suite of microbes inhabiting the gut – in the roasted and raw diets, compared with kibble. Swanson says the changes in the microbiota were neither good nor bad, just different. He suggests that the results showcase the flexibility of gut microbiota, and how little scientists know about the effects of diet on host-microbe relationships as a whole.

It is important to point out that all dogs were healthy throughout the study period, and that all diets were palatable, highly digestible, and resulted in good stool quality. Even though some of the diets were statistically more digestible or led to lower triglycerides, those metrics were within the normal range for all dogs on all diets. Therefore, Swanson emphasizes, all the diet formats tested in the study, including kibble, would be healthy choices.

“As far as diet format and market segment is concerned, it ultimately comes down to consumer preference and philosophy. As long as a diet is shown to be safe and meets the nutritional needs of the pet in question, it is an acceptable option to me. If an owner is willing to pay more for premium ingredients and/or an improved processing method, I am fully supportive. To me, the most important thing is testing these new diet formats and products before they are commercially available,” Swanson says.

The article, “Apparent total-tract macronutrient digestibility, serum chemistry, urinalysis, and fecal characteristics, metabolites and microbiota of adult dogs fed extruded, mildly cooked, and raw diets,” is published in the Journal of Animal Science [DOI: 10.1093/jas/sky235]. Authors include Kiley Algya, Tzu-Wen Cross, Kristen Leuck, Megan Kastner, Toshiro Baba, Lynn Lye, Maria de Godoy, and Kelly Swanson. Lynn Lye is from Freshpet, and all other authors are from U of I. The research was funded by Freshpet.

Source:  University of Illinois press release

Dogs could be more similar to humans than we thought

Dog and human gut microbiomes have more similar genes and responses to diet than we previously thought, according to a study published in the open access journal, Microbiome.

Canine Microbiome

The canine microbiome is quite similar to that of humans. Credit: © Kar Tr / Fotolia

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho and colleagues from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in collaboration with Nestlé Research, evaluated the gut microbiome of two dog breeds and found that the gene content of the dogs microbiome showed many similarities to the human gut microbiome, and was more similar to humans than the microbiome of pigs or mice.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, corresponding author of the study, commented: “We found many similarities between the gene content of the human and dog gut microbiomes. The results of this comparison suggest that we are more similar to man’s best friend than we originally thought.”

The researchers found that changes in the amount of protein and carbohydrates in the diet had a similar effect on the microbiota of dogs and humans, independent of the dog’s breed or sex. The microbiomes of overweight or obese dogs were found to be more responsive to a high protein diet compared to microbiomes of lean dogs; this is consistent with the idea that healthy microbiomes are more resilient.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, commented: “These findings suggest that dogs could be a better model for nutrition studies than pigs or mice and we could potentially use data from dogs to study the impact of diet on gut microbiota in humans, and humans could be a good model to study the nutrition of dogs.

“Many people who have pets consider them as part of the family and like humans, dogs have a growing obesity problem. Therefore, it is important to study the implications of different diets.”

The researchers investigated how diet interacted with the dog gut microbiome with a randomized controlled trial using a sample of 64 dogs, half of which were beagles and half were retrievers, with equal numbers of lean and overweight dogs. The dogs were all fed the same base diet of commercially available dog food for four weeks then they were randomized into two groups; one group consumed a high protein, low carb diet and the other group consumed a high carb, low protein diet for four weeks. A total of 129 dog stool samples were collected at four and eight weeks. The researchers then extracted DNA from these samples to create the dog gut microbiome gene catalogue containing 1,247,405 genes. The dog gut gene catalogue was compared to existing gut microbiome gene catalogues from humans, mice and pigs to assess the similarities in gene content and how the gut microbiome responds to changes in diet.

The authors caution that while humans and dogs host very similar microbes, they are not exactly the same microbes, but very closely related strains of the same species.

Source:  Science Daily

The Peanuts Movie

Opening next month, Snoopy is coming to the big screen!

I like the look of the animations in this trailer; Snoopy and Woodstock look like the cartoons that I remember which were originally drawn by the late Charles M Schulz.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Testing on animals for a legal high

Across all major cities in New Zealand this week, people and their dogs marched in protest of the Psychoactive Substances Act.  This Act has come into effect to regulate ‘designer drugs’ or ‘legal highs’ to protect the safety of people who choose to take such drugs.

The Act allows for animal testing ‘when there is no alternative’ because the New Zealand MPs who voted for it refused to ban animal testing altogether.

A billboard by SAFE in Wellington

A billboard by SAFE in Wellington

Many New Zealanders signed a petition to Government to oppose animal testing for something as frivolous as ‘getting high.’  The Ministers of Parliament didn’t heed those views when voting on the new law.  Green MP Mojo Mathers has a members bill proposed to remove animal testing as an option – but there are no guarantees that it will be chosen from the ballot to move through the law-making process.

This isn’t about therapeutic drugs – this is about getting your jollies artificially and wanting assurances that you are safe because the products have been tested on animals.

I live in New Zealand, and I’m pretty saddened by the lack of leadership shown by the New Zealand Government.  What do you think?  Would you buy New Zealand made products or plan a trip here knowing that dogs and other animals may die for the legal high industry?

Not a good look, New Zealand.  For shame!

Developing methods in pain management and osteoarthritis

Researchers at Kansas State University are devoting their time to the study of improvements in pain management and the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs.   (For more information on pain management, see my June 2012 blog)

The projects are led by James Roush, a professor of clinical sciences.

In one study, the research team determined that the maximum effective time for using hot and cold packs for pain management is 10 minutes.   The researchers studied how packing affects tissue temperature in beagles and beagle-sized dogs after surgery because hot and cold packing is a common technique for reducing swelling.   After 10 minutes, the maximum change in tissue temperature has been reached.

In another study, a special mat is being used to study lameness in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.  When dogs step on the mat, it measures the pressure in their step and the study team can determine in which leg the lameness is worse.

“We’ve designed the study to help improve osteoarthritis treatment,” Roush said. “We will also use it to measure clinical patients when they come in for regular checkups. We can measure their recovery and a variety of other aspects: how they respond to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, how they respond to narcotics or how they respond to a surgical procedure that is designed to take that pressure off the joint.”

And in a third study,  Roush is collaborating with researchers to study the effectiveness of a painkiller used to treat dogs to identify potential alternatives.

“To achieve the drug’s effect, the dosage in dogs is much higher than in people,” Roush said. “It also may not be a very good analgesic in dogs. We want to see if there is an alternative that requires smaller doses and does not have not as much of a discrepancy for patients.”

Source:  Kansas State University media release

Forty rescued lab beagles on their way to a better life

Read more here:

Forty Rescued Lab Beagles Have Much to Be Thankful For.