Tag Archives: College of Veterinary Medicine

New Cancer Drug for Dogs Also Helps Humans

Dogs suffering from certain types of blood cancers may have a new treatment alternative thanks to the collaborative work of cancer experts looking for options that can help both humans and their pets.

The drug, Verdinexor (KPT-335), works by preventing powerful tumor suppressing proteins from leaving the nucleus of cells, an exodus which allows cancer to grow unchecked. It’s the first new therapeutic option for dog lymphoma in more than two decades, potentially offering vets another alternative for treating the disease, which is the most common form of canine cancer.

“Verdinexor is a really different from chemotherapy, the current standard of care for lymphoma. It works by blocking a protein in the cells responsible for shuttling other proteins in and out of the nucleus, resulting in disruption of cell survival and eventual cell death ,” said veterinary oncologist Cheryl London, DVM, PhD, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, who led preclinical, Phase I and Phase II studies of Verdinexor. “Verdinexor could give veterinarians another option if first-line chemotherapy fails or as a potent adjunctive therapy.”

Lead researcher Cheryl London with her dog, photo courtesy of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Lead researcher Cheryl London with her dog, photo courtesy of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

“A cancer diagnosis is tough on dogs and their owners. Dogs with lymphoma must go to a veterinary office weekly to receive chemotherapy infusions,” said London. “Since Verdinexor is a pill that can be given at home, it could help make treatment less traumatic for everyone.”

The similarities in the ways human and canine cancer drugs are researched and used are not coincidental. Many types of human and canine cancers are identical at both the cellular and molecular levels, making companion animal studies an ideal place to test drive experimental compounds that appear to have anti-cancer characteristics.

When it comes to cancer, dogs and humans have so much in common,” said London. “I think as human medicine becomes more personalized through the use of genomics, I think we’ll see the same happening in vet medicine.”

Source:  Newswise media release

Albino Dobermans

Michigan State University researchers have identified a genetic mutation in Doberman pinschers that causes albinism in the breed, a discovery that has eluded veterinarians and breeders worldwide up until now.

Michigan State University photo

Michigan State University photo

Paige Winkler, a doctoral student at the College of Veterinary Medicine, says that the researchers found a gene mutation that results in a missing protein responsible for the pigmentation of cells.

Albino Dobermans possess a pink nose, white or very light colored coats, and pale irises in the eyes.  These characteristics are similar to human albinos who have light skin, eye discoloration and often experience visual problems.

Like human albinos, the albino Dobermans are sensitive to light and have an increased risk of skin tumors.

Winkler says that this discovery will help Doberman breeders in the future where breeding lines carrying the defective gene can be identified.

Source:  Michigan State University media statement

Canine circovirus

Circoviruses are small viruses that survive well in the environment once shed from affected animals.  There’s a canine circovirus that was first detected in the USA in 2012, but there’s still a lot to learn.

Dogs infected with circovirus may show symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and even death.

“Last year in Ohio and California, some dogs died of diarrhea and they couldn’t figure out the causing agent because those routine diagnostics could not pick up any pathogens that are potentially causing the diarrhea deaths,” researcher Jianfa Bai said.  Bai is a molecular diagnostician and assistant professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Kansas State Diagnostic Laboratory has recently developed tests to identify circovirus. Researchers are still unsure how deadly this disease is. While some dogs show symptoms, 3 to 11 percent of the dogs tested at the diagnostic laboratory have been confirmed as carrying the pathogen — but are healthy and do not show symptoms.

Bai says they can’t rule out that circovirus is causing deaths. It is also possible that the deaths are caused by a combination of circovirus and another disease.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that your dog is checked by a veterinarian if they are vomiting or have diarrhea.  Your vet can contact the laboratory at 866-512-5650 if they want to submit samples for testing.

Source:  Kansas State University media release

The SmartPill: helping to understand canine bloat

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), or bloat, is one of the leading causes of death in dogs.  Second only to cancer in some breeds, it’s the number one killer of Great Danes. Despite its prevalence, the cause of bloat is unknown.

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has given a research grant to Laura Nelson, assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine to change that.

Great Dane photoWhen a dog gets bloat, gas fills the dog’s stomach, the stomach twists completely around, the gas has no way to escape, and blood and air supply to the stomach are cut off. As the stomach swells, it presses against the abdominal wall and pushes against large blood vessels. Shock is usually the cause of death. The whole progression can happen in a matter of minutes or hours, and surgery is required to save the dog’s life.

It’s generally believed that genetics as well as environmental factors play a role in which dog develops bloat.  “We want to know why some dogs get bloat while others don’t,” says Nelson.

Nelson’s team is investigating the relationship of contractions responsible for the digestion of food (motility) with increased GDV risk, and hopes to define the biochemical and genetic alterations that may be associated with hypomotility—abnormally weak contractions. A new diagnostic tool, SmartPill®, makes possible noninvasive assessment of motility. The SmartPill® is an ingestible capsule with an instrument inside that measures acidity and pressure. The team will measure the time it takes the capsule to pass through the dog’s system and the pressure spikes along the way.

In the short term, the research findings may provide clinicians with data that would allow them to make informed decisions about when to use preventative medications or conduct targeted prophylactic surgery—gastropexy—in at-risk dogs. This procedure surgically attaches the stomach to the abdominal wall in order to prevent twisting. It is an effective procedure that is well tolerated, but, Nelson notes, it is an invasive procedure that may not be necessary in some dogs. There currently is not a good way to determine who to recommend it for.

“With bloat, it happens and you treat it. But it would be so much more satisfying if we really understood why some dogs get bloat, and then be able to make more informed treatment decisions and possibly prevent the disease altogether,” says Nelson.

Source:  Michigan State University media statement

When something isn’t right with your senior dog

Old dog_dementiaWe love them to bits.  And gradually we notice changes that signal they are getting older.  They may no longer hear the doorbell and, thanks to this new deafness, they may sleep very deeply.

But  changes in an old dog need to be considered carefully.  Behavioral changes can often be the signs of other problems, like diabetes, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, dental disease, and cancers.

One thing that I’m learning more about is canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).  Veterinarians describe this as a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’ which means they look to diagnose another disease or disorder first before deciding that the dog is suffering from CDS.

When assessing for symptoms and severity of CDS, veterinarians follow the acronym DISHA.  DISHA stands for:

D= Disorientation

I = Interaction changes

S = Sleep/wake cycle changes

H = House soiling

A = Activity level changes

Disorientation can present as changes in spatial awareness, loss of ability to navigate around familiar obstacles, and/or wandering behavior.

Interaction changes can include a decreased interest in social interaction, petting, greetings, or dependent behaviors.

Restlessness or frequent waking during the night, panic or panting (particularly at night), and increased sleep during the daytime are indications of changes to sleep/wake cycles.

House soiling can increase when there is a loss of signal from the brain so your dog doesn’t realise it needs to eliminate; signs of incontinence or fouling indoors when this has never been a problem are symptoms.

Changes in activity can include decreased exploration and response to stimuli, decreased grooming, change in appetite, increased anxiety with signs of restlessness or agitation and/or separation anxiety.

Most vets offer senior wellness checks  for older dogs.  It’s well worth observing your older pet and discussing all changes with your vet before dismissing the changes as simply old age.

Source:  Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Visual identification of breed – one reason why BSL doesn’t work

I’m ‘on the record’ that I don’t support breed specific legislation (BSL) and I consider it one of New Zealand’s great shames that it has adopted such laws  (just one of the issues I raised when I submitted to the review of the Animal Welfare Act).

Breed specific legislation doesn’t work because, in part, these laws rely on visual identification of breeds.  If a dog is identified as one of the banned or dangerous breeds, it can (literally) be ‘all over, Rover.’

There’s scientific research that shows why visual identification is a fatal flaw in BSL.  Some of this research has been conducted by Dr Victoria Lea Voith who is based at the Western University of Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine.

In 2009, Voith and her colleagues published results of a study comparing visual identification of dog breed with DNA results.   They showed that there was a very low accuracy rate when visual identifications were verified with DNA.  The research team concluded:

  • There is little correlation between dog adoption agencies’ identification of probable breed composition with the identification of breeds by DNA analysis
  • Further evaluation of the reliability and validity of visual dog breed identification is warranted
  • Justification of current public and private policies pertaining to breed specific regulations should be reviewed

This year (2013), Voith and her colleagues published another paper entitled “Comparison of Visual and DNA Breed Identification of Dogs and Inter-Observer Reliability”   Since their previous paper was based on the identification of breed by a single person, the research team wanted to see if the success rate of breed identification improved when multiple people were involved.  The research team presented one-minute video clips of the same 20 dogs to over 900 people who were engaged in dog-related professions or services.

For 14 of the dogs, fewer than 50% of the respondents visually identified breeds of dogs that matched DNA identification. For only 7 of the dogs was there agreement among more than 50% of the respondents regarding the most predominant breed of a mixed breed.  In 3 of those 7 cases, the visual identification did not match the DNA analysis.

This time, the research team concluded:

This study reveals large disparities between visual and DNA breed identification as well as differences among peoples’ visual identifications of dogs. These discrepancies raise questions concerning the accuracy of databases which supply demographic data on dog breeds for publications such as public health reports, articles on canine behavior, and the rationale for public and private restrictions pertaining to dog breeds.

Dr Voith explains her research in this YouTube video:

If you still want to know more about this issue, you can visit the Breed Identification page of the National Canine Research Council.  On this page, you can download color posters that further explain the problems associated with visual identification of breeds.

More fat and less protein for sniffing dogs

Sniffing dog checking luggage. (Credit: © Monika Wisniewska / Fotolia)

A detector dog checking luggage. (Credit: © Monika Wisniewska / Fotolia)

A study  funded with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, has found that detection dogs are more reliable detectors than previously thought.  The study has been conducted by Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The study is the first to be conducted in the world’s only detection dog research facility designed in conjunction with a military dog trainer. The Alabama facility, which provides expert detection dogs to police and military forces, flushes out fumes between tests, ensuring a fresh field each time.

Researchers have found that the key to improving a dogs’ smelling skills through diet is achieved by limiting proteins and increasing fats.  Such a diet, the research team says, appears to help dogs return to lower body temperatures after exercise, which reduces panting and, thereby, improves sniffing.

‘Dogs tested in the new facility signaled with 90 percent and above accuracy. We also found we can push detection performance even further with the right kind of food.’ said Joseph Wakshlag, associate professor of clinical studies and chief of nutrition at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

During an 18-month period, the research team rotated 17 trained dogs through three diets: a high-end performance diet, regular adult dog food, and regular adult dog food diluted with corn oil. Measuring how different diets affected each dog, they found that dogs eating the normal diet enhanced with corn oil returned to normal body temperatures most quickly after exercise and were better able to detect smokeless powder, ammonia nitrate and TNT.

‘Corn oil has lots of polyunsaturated fats, similar to what you’d find in a lot of nuts and common grocery store seed oils,’ said Wakshlag. ‘Past data from elsewhere suggest that these polyunsaturated fats might enhance the sense of smell, and it looks like that may be true for detection dogs. It could be that fat somehow improves nose-signaling structures or reduces body temperature or both. But lowering protein also played a part in improving olfaction.’

‘If you’re a dog, digesting protein raises body temperature, so the longer your body temperature is up, the longer you keep panting, and the harder it is to smell well,’ said Wakshlag.

Source:  Cornell University media release