Tag Archives: oregon state university

Dogs prefer to eat fat…

Dogs gravitate toward high-fat food, but cats pounce on carbohydrates with even greater enthusiasm, according to research into the dietary habits of America’s two most popular pets.

Oregon research into diet

The study sheds new light on optimal nutrition for the animals and refutes a common notion that cats want and need a protein-heavy regimen.

The research, funded by The Pet Nutrition Center of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc, had its findings published in the Journal of Experimental Biology in May 2018.

“The numbers were much different than what traditional thinking would have expected,” said the study’s corresponding author, Jean Hall, a professor in the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University. “Some experts have thought cats need diets that are 40 or 50 percent protein. Our findings are quite different than the numbers used in marketing and are going to really challenge the pet food industry.”

Dietary proteins contribute to a number of important physiological functions such as blood clotting, production of hormones and enzymes, vision and cell repair.

Protein also has the most power to make the eater feel satiated; carbohydrates are No. 2 in that regard, followed by fat.

Hall’s research involved monitoring 17 healthy adult dogs and 27 cats over 28 days and used four types of food that were designed to taste the same; with flavor out of the equation, the animals could make macronutrient choices based only on what their bodies were telling them they needed.

“Previous studies have shown that if you don’t balance palatability between foods, cats do in fact prefer to eat very high levels of protein and dogs want to eat a lot of fat,” Hall said. “When you balance palatability, both dogs and cats prefer significantly different macronutrient content than what they would choose based on taste.”

The animals studied by Hall and her collaborators had four food choices: high-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-protein and balanced foods. Each day, dogs had an hour to eat all they wanted up a predetermined caloric intake – that is, they could get all the calories they needed for metabolic requirements and to maintain weight, but no more.

The cats in the study were likewise not allowed to overeat, though even if given unlimited access to food that tastes how they like it, cats tend to eat in a weight-maintenance way by adjusting their intake based on the food’s energy density. In the study, cats had 24-hour food access to the point of hitting their caloric threshold.

Food container placement for both dogs and cats was changed daily to guard against “bowl position bias” affecting the results.

The researchers found the cats on average chose to get 43 percent of their calories from carbs and 30 percent from protein.

Dogs on the other hand went for 41 percent fat and 36 percent carbs.

Not a single dog or cat chose to get the highest percentage of its calories from protein.

Within the aggregate cat findings were trends correlating with age and lean body mass – how much muscle an animal has.

Younger cats with less lean body mass tended more strongly toward protein consumption than younger cats with more lean body mass; younger cats in general wanted protein more than older cats.

On the dog side of the study, high-protein foods were the least popular among younger animals with less fat body mass; dogs with greater fat body mass had the strongest preference for getting calories from protein.

“Because the choice of macronutrients was influenced in both dogs and cats by age and either lean body mass or fat body mass, that suggests a physiological basis for what they chose to eat,” Hall said.

The research also involved determining the diets’ effect on selected metabolites of each macronutrient class – what they break down into in the body. Hall found the older cats’ blood had much lower levels of DHA, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that’s important for the brain, heart and eyes, than the younger cats.

“None of the foods had ingredient sources of DHA or EPA, another long-chain omega-3, but cats are able to synthesize DHA by elongating and desaturating fatty acids,” Hall said. “The older cats, though, are a lot less efficient at that.”

More potential bad news for the older cats: Their concentrations of sulfated microbial catabolic products – protein-breakdown leftovers that in humans are connected to cardiovascular and kidney disease – were significantly higher.

“Just like with older people, older cats may have a different gut microbiome than younger cats, which would mean different microbial metabolic activities,” Hall said.

Basically, if a younger cat gets more protein than it can use, it can safely deal with and dispose of the excess a lot better than an older cat can.

Source:   Oregon State University

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Human encouragement and how it may help dogs solve problems

Human encouragement might influence how dogs solve problems, according to a new Oregon State University study.

The study, published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, sheds light on how people influence animal behavior, said study lead author Lauren Brubaker, a doctoral student in OSU’s Human-Animal Interaction Lab.

Brubaker evaluated the behavior of search and rescue dogs and pet dogs when presented with the same problem-solving task. Both sets of dogs persisted at the task for about the same proportion of time, but the search and rescue dogs were more successful at solving the task when encouraged by their owners.

However, the search and rescue dogs didn’t solve the task when they were alone. Further, pet dogs that solved the task with their owner present – but not encouraging them – also solved it when they were alone, Brubaker said.

“We thought that was unusual,” Brubaker said. “Because search and rescue dogs are trained to work independently, we expected that they would out-perform pet dogs on this independent task and that wasn’t the case. This suggests that the behavior of the owner, including their expectation of their dog and how they engage with their dog on a day-to-day basis, may influence the dog during a problem-solving task.

“This leads us to believe that communication between search and rescue dogs and their owner could be more effective than communication between pet dogs and their owners,” she said.

In the study, the dogs were given a solvable task with a person present: open a puzzle box containing a sausage within two minutes. They compared a group of 28 search and rescue dogs and a group of 31 pet dogs.

Search and rescue dogs were used as a comparison to pet dogs because they are traditionally trained to work independently from their owner. The search and rescue dogs were provided by Mountain Wave Search and rescue in Portland, Douglas County Search and Rescue in Roseburg, and Benton County Search and Rescue in Corvallis.

Pet dogs were recruited at random from the community through online advertisement and by way of word of mouth. Data from pet dogs from a 2015 study conducted by Udell were also used in the analysis. The dogs in both groups were from a variety of breeds.

The dogs were given the puzzle box under two conditions: alone in the room, and with their owner in the room standing neutrally. During the neutral phase, owners were instructed to stand in the room with their arms by their side and to avoid communicating with the dog. In the encouragement condition, the owner was instructed to encourage the dog however they saw appropriate, typically by using verbal praise or gestures, but without touching the dog or the container and without making contact with the dog or the container.

Before each condition the owner was instructed to “bait” the container by picking the container up, placing the food inside the container while the dog watched, and showing it to the dog to allow the dog to see that the container had food in it. Then they placed it on the ground in a designated location. In the neutral-human condition, the owner took three steps back and stood neutrally for two minutes. During the alone condition the owner left the room after placing the object on the ground.

In the human-neutral condition, three of the pet dogs and two of search and rescue dogs solved the task. Two pet dogs solved the task in the alone condition. In the encouragement condition, nine of the search and rescue dogs solved the task, while only two pet dogs did.

“When the owner’s social cues direct the dog towards the independent problem-solving task, then we see something interesting,” said Monique Udell, an animal scientist who directs the Human-Animal Interaction Lab in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “While most dogs increase the amount of time they spend attending to the puzzle when encouraged, pet dogs often end up treating the puzzle like a toy. Instead of engaging in goal directed behavior, they act as if their owner was encouraging them to play.”

Udell continued, “It’s possible that when directed by their owners, search and rescue dogs instead see opening the box as their job. Their owners may be more effective at communicating about the task at hand. Or maybe there is something inherently different about dogs that are selected for search and rescue that makes them more apt to solve the problem. More research is needed to know for sure.”

Source:  Oregon State University media statement

More communication needed about disposal of pet pharmaceuticals

If no one told you the proper way to get rid of those leftover heartworm pills, bottles of flea shampoo and other pet care products your household no longer needs, you’re not alone.

New research from Oregon State University found that more than 60 percent of veterinary care professionals do not counsel their clients when it comes to the environmental stewardship aspect of medicine disposal – findings that are troublesome but also represent an opportunity to dramatically reduce watershed contaminants.

OSU dog

“People are just starting to understand the impact that discarded pharmaceuticals and personal care products have on the environment,” said the study’s corresponding author, Jennifer Lam, who worked on the research while a graduate student in marine resource management at Oregon State University.

“This study opens the door and shows a communication gap, shows where there’s an opportunity to help educate people. There’s not much communication going on between veterinary care professionals and their clients on how to dispose of expired pet medicines, meaning there’s a lot of potential for those professionals to help their clients learn what to do.”

Lam, now a senior analyst for Blue Earth Consultants, and other researchers at OSU surveyed 191 pet owners and found nearly half of them got rid of unneeded care products and medicine via the garbage; Blue Earth, based in Oakland, California, is an environmental management consulting division of ERG.

Researchers surveyed 88 environmental educators and 103 veterinary care professionals. The survey revealed 61 percent of the veterinary professionals did not share information about proper disposal with their clients. And the 39 percent who reported sharing that information did so 19 percent of the time – roughly one appointment in five.

“It’s not a popular topic to bring up,” said Lam, who noted the professionals listed a number of barriers to communication, including lack of knowledge about proper disposal, time, cost and lack of concern on the part of both client and care provider.

“Survey respondents said their professional organizations, such as their veterinary associations, are their top source for disposal information,” Lam said. “This shows that veterinary-care professionals can serve as role models for other pet owners on environmental stewardship practices.”

Scientists have long known about the potential environmental effects stemming from the use and disposal of products aimed at keeping people healthy and clean, but with roughly seven in 10 Americans owning at least one pet, animal medications and other care products are slowly beginning to move into the spotlight too.

Pet supplies and over-the-counter pet medications are a nearly $15 billion industry in the U.S. Veterinary care including prescription medicine is close to a $16 billion chunk of the economy. Both figures are on the rise.

“But you can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of PPCPs – pharmaceutical and personal care products – for both themselves and their pets,” said Sam Chan, a watershed health expert with the Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.”

Increasingly, Chan said, chemicals from PPCPs for people and pets are being found at low levels in groundwater and surface water; anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, antibiotics, estrogens, insect repellant, antimicrobials and sunscreen compounds are among what’s being detected.

Some impacts are already appearing, he said. For example, fish exposed to antidepressants become more active and bold and thus more susceptible to predation.

“Most people tend to throw extra pills or personal care products into the trash and, in fewer instances, flush them down the drain,” Chan said. “It seems like the right thing to do but it’s not the best thing for the environment.”

The national Sea Grant program is partnering with the American Veterinary Medical Association to promote proper PPCP disposal: Dropping them off at a take-back event or bringing them to a depository such as those in place at some police stations and college campuses.

“This study is one of the first to really show a baseline on the environmental stewardship of pet owners regarding their use and disposal of personal and pet medicine and care products,” Lam said. “It also shows the correlation between what pet owners do with their own medicine versus their pets’ – both types of products are being disposed of in similar ways.”

This research was funded in part by Oregon Sea Grant. Findings were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Source:  Oregon State University media release

Elevated cholesterol’s link with canine osteosarcoma includes a better prognosis

Note from Doggy Mom:  I follow lots of areas of research in the canine field, but anything to do with osteosarcoma is interesting to me since greyhounds are known for suffering from this type of cancer.  Izzy is a greyhound!


Usually thought of as a health detriment, elevated cholesterol may play a role in longer survival times for dogs with a common form of bone cancer.

In addition to their veterinary significance, the findings by Oregon State University researchers advance the understanding of a type of malignant tumor, osteosarcoma, that’s often diagnosed in humans as well, typically afflicting teenagers and young adults.

Dog with cancer

A dog with osteosarcoma; Photo courtesy of Oregon State University

“This is one of the first steps into identifying cholesterol as a potential biomarker for canine osteosarcoma,” said Haley Leeper, a veterinary oncology resident at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “We don’t have answers as to why high cholesterol is associated with this disease and with a better prognosis, but we’re hoping to advance these findings in future research.”

Leeper and collaborators at OSU and Iowa State University compared 64 dogs with osteosarcoma against two control groups: 30 dogs that had suffered traumatic bone fractures and 31 healthy dogs similar in age and weight to the animals with cancer.

Researchers found nearly half of the dogs with cancer – 29 of the 64 – had elevated levels of total serum cholesterol, a dramatically higher rate than occurred in either control population; just three of the 30 dogs with broken bones, and only two of the 31 healthy animals, showed high cholesterol.

Of the dogs stricken with osteosarcoma, 35 had the cancer in a leg which was subsequently amputated, followed by chemotherapy, which is the standard-of-care treatment; the dogs with elevated total cholesterol had a median survival time of 455 days, more than 200 days greater than the median survival time  for dogs with normal cholesterol.

“When people think of cholesterol they think of cheeseburgers and heart attacks,” Leeper said. “However, cholesterol is involved with many key processes and structures in the body like cell membranes, bone health and the immune system.”

Future studies that follow dogs long term and look at specific lipid content in the blood may shed light on the mechanisms behind cholesterol’s role in enhanced survival, Leeper said.

“There are a lot of things we plan on investigating,” she said. “This is exciting and fascinating, partly due to the comparative medical aspects between human research and our research.”

Source:  Oregon State University media release

Improving the lives of kids with disabilities – one family dog at a time

The family dog could serve as a partner and ally in efforts to help children with disabilities incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives, a new study from Oregon State University indicates.

In a case study of one 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and his family’s dog, researchers found the intervention program led to a wide range of improvements for the child, including physical activity as well as motor skills, quality of life and human-animal interactions.

“These initial findings indicate that we can improve the quality of life for children with disabilities, and we can get them to be more active,” said Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and corresponding author on the study. “And in this case, both are happening simultaneously, which is fantastic.”

CP-kid-and-dog-2-e1402346844838

A boy with cerebral palsy and a therapy dog (not the dog in this study) Photo courtesy of: http://www.michigancerebralpalsyattorneys.com

The researchers detailed the child’s experience in the adapted physical activity intervention program in a case study just published in the journal Animals.

Children with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy spend significantly less time participating in physical activity compared to their peers and are considered a health disparity group, meaning they generally face more health concerns than their peers.

Researchers designed an adapted physical activity, animal-assisted intervention where the family dog would serve as a partner with the child in physical activities designed to help improve overall physical activity, motor skills and quality of life. The family dog is a good choice for this type of intervention because the animal is already known to the child and there is an existing relationship – and both the dog and the child will benefit from the activities, MacDonald said.

Researchers took initial assessments of the child’s daily physical activity, motor skills and quality of life before starting the eight-week intervention. A veterinarian examined the dog’s fitness for participation and the human-animal interaction between the dog, a year-old Pomeranian, and the child was also assessed.

Then the pair began the eight-week intervention, which included a supervised physical activity program once a week for 60 minutes and participation in activities such as brushing the dog with each hand; playing fetch and alternating hands; balancing on a wobble board; and marching on a balancing disc.

“The dog would also balance on the wobble board, so it became a challenge for the child – if the dog can do it, I can, too,” MacDonald said. “It was so cool to see the relationship between the child and the dog evolve over time. They develop a partnership and the activities become more fun and challenging for the child. It becomes, in part, about the dog and the responsibility of taking care of it.”

The dog and the child also had “homework,” which included brushing the dog, playing fetch and going on daily walks. The child wore an accelerometer to measure physical activity levels at home.

At the conclusion of the intervention, researchers re-assessed and found that the child’s quality of life had increased significantly in several areas, including emotional, social and physical health, as assessed by the child as well as the parent. In addition, the child’s sedentary behavior decreased and time spent on moderate to vigorous activity increased dramatically.

“The findings so far are very encouraging,” MacDonald said. “There’s a chance down the road we could be encouraging families to adopt a dog for the public health benefits. How cool would that be?” 

The researchers also found that the relationship between the dog and the child improved over the course of the therapy as they worked together on various tasks. The dog’s prosocial, or positive, behavior toward the child is a sign of wellbeing for both members of the team, said Udell, who is director of the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at OSU.

“A closer child-dog bond increases the likelihood of lasting emotional benefits and may also facilitate long-term joint activity at home, such as taking walks, simply because it is enjoyable for all involved,” she said.

This study is one of the first to evaluate how a dog’s behavior and wellbeing are affected by their participation in animal-assisted therapy, Udell noted. From an animal welfare standpoint, it is promising that the dog’s behavior and performance on cognitive and physical tasks improved alongside the child’s.

Though the case study features only one child, the research team recruited several families with children with disabilities and their dogs to participate in the larger project, which was designed in part to test the design and methodology of the experiment and determine if it could be implemented on a larger scale.

Based on the initial results, researchers hope to pursue additional studies involving children with disabilities and their family dogs, if funding can be secured. They would like to examine other benefits such a pairing might have, including the sense of responsibility the child appears to gain during the course of the intervention.

“We’re also learning a lot from our child participants,” MacDonald said. “They’re teaching us stuff about friendship with the animal and the responsibility of taking care of a pet, which allows us to ask more research questions about the influence of a pet on the child and their family.” 

Source:  Oregon State University media statement

Pet products and the environment – a survey for US and Canadian owners

Scientists have long been aware of the potential environment impacts that stem from the use and disposal of the array of products people use to keep themselves healthy, clean and smelling nice. Now a new concern is emerging – improper disposal of pet care products and pills.

Dog shampoos, heartworm medicine, flea and tick sprays, and prescription and over-the-counter medicines increasingly are finding their way into landfills and waterways, posing a water quality and environmental health risk. Researchers at Oregon State University say that, with an estimated 68 percent of American households owning at least one pet, the scope of the potential problem is large.

Sam Chan, a watershed health expert with the Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State University, has launched a survey of veterinary professionals and pet owners to to get a better idea of the scope of the issue. If you live in the United States or Canada, you can contribute to his survey here.

The purpose of the survey is to determine how aware people are about the disposal of “pharmaceutical and personal care products” (PPCPs) for both themselves and their pets plus their general awareness of the environmental issues.

“You can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of these products,” Chan said. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.”

Increasingly, Chan said, a suite of PPCPs used by pets and people are being detected at low levels in surface water and groundwater. Examples include anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, antidepressants, antibiotics, estrogens, the insect repellent DEET, and ultraviolet (UV) sunblock compounds.

For example, coal tar which is used in pet medicines and shampoos for skin treatment is an endocrine disruptor.

When medicines are no longer needed, the research team encourages owners to take the drugs and medications back to their pharmacy or veterinarian for proper disposal in a drug collection program. Placing unwanted medications in the rubbish means that they are an uncontrolled source in landfills, where leaching and runoff are mechanisms to enter the environment.

Source: Phys.org

Diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer in dogs

Veterinary researchers at Oregon State University have identified a unique group of proteins that indicate the presence of transitional cell carcinoma – the most common cause of bladder cancer – and may lead to a new assay which could better diagnose this disease in both dogs and humans.

Photo by Shay Bracha, Oregon State University

Photo by Shay Bracha, Oregon State University

Sheepdogs, collies, and terriers seem particularly susceptible to this type of cancer.  By the time the cancer is diagnosed, it is usually too late to save the dog’s life.

An improved assay to detect this serious disease much earlier in both animals and humans should be possible, scientists said, and may even become affordable enough that it could be used as an over-the-counter product to test urine, much like a human pregnancy test. Some of the work may also contribute to new therapies, they said.

“Research of this type should first help us develop a reliable assay for this cancer in dogs, and improve the chance the disease can be caught early enough that treatments are effective,” said Shay Bracha, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

Source:  Oregon State University media statement