Tag Archives: University of Helsinki

House­holds feed­ing their dogs and cats with raw food do not con­sider the diet a sig­ni­fic­ant source of in­fec­tions

Raw food research

Raw food denotes any meat, internal organs, bones and cartilage fed to pets uncooked Photo credit: Johanna Anturaniemi

An extensive international survey conducted at the University of Helsinki indicates that pet owners do not consider raw food to considerably increase infection risk in their household. In the survey, targeted at pet owners, raw food was reliably determined to be a contaminant only in three households.

The safety of feeding raw food to pets has become a topic of debate on a range of forums, but so far, no outbreaks of contamination among humans caused by raw pet food have been reported. Raw food denotes any meat, internal organs, bones and cartilage fed to pets uncooked.

Now, a survey conducted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine investigated perceptions on food-transmitted pathogens among pet owners who feed their pets raw food.

A total of 16,475 households from 81 countries responded to the survey. Out of these, only 39 households (0.24%) reported having been contaminated by pet food, and were also able to name the pathogen. The most common pathogens reported were Campylobacteria followed by Salmonella, in addition to which there were occurrences of Escherichia coliClostridiumToxoplasmaand a single Yersinia infection.

However, the meat fed to pets had been analysed in only three households (0.02%), identifying the same pathogen as found in the samples taken from the infected individuals. As well as the 39 households above, 24 households (0.15%) reported a contamination from pet food without being able to name the pathogen causing the symptoms.

In total, 99.6% of households feeding their pets raw food did not report any pathogens being transmitted from the raw food to humans. The time the responding households had been feeding raw food to their pets ranged from several weeks to 65 years, with 5.5 years as the mean value. The reported cases of illness covered whole time frame that raw food was consumed in the household.

The median age among the infected individuals was 40.1 years. From among the 39 households with infections, in four the infected individuals were children between two and six years of age, while in two households the infected were immunocompromised individuals (cancer and Crohn’s disease). However, a quarter of these households had children between two and six years of age, while 15% had immunocompromised individuals.

“It was surprising to find that statistical analyses identified fewer infections in the households with more than 50% of the pet diet consisting of raw food. Furthermore, feeding pets raw salmon or turkey was associated with a smaller number of infections,” says researcher Johanna Anturaniemi from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

A positive correlation with infection was only found in relation to children between two and six years of age living in the household, even though most of the infected individuals (90%) were adults.

“This raises the question of whether the pathogens could have been transmitted by children from outdoors, daycare centres or other public spaces, even if pet food had been assumed to be the source of infection,” Anturaniemi says.

According to the researchers, the role of other factors in infections cannot be assessed in more detail within the confines of this study; rather, further research is needed. In contrast, reports of outbreaks of pathogens linked to pet treats and dry food can be found from around the world. In fact, the Dogrisk research group is planning to conduct a comparative follow-up study where infections transmitted from pet food are to be investigated in households that use both raw food and dry food.

The survey was translated into five languages and made available to all dog and cat owners across the globe feeding their cats and dogs raw food.

Ori­ginal art­icle:

Anturaniemi J, Barrouin-Melo SM, Zaldivar-López S, Sinkko H, Hielm-Björkman A. Owners’ perception of acquiring infections through raw pet food: a comprehensive internet-based survey. Vet Rec. 2019 Aug 19. pii: vetrec-2018-105122. doi: 10.1111/vr.105122.

Source:  University of Helsinki Life Science News

Advertisements

Canine hereditary diseases more common than previously indicated

Comment from me (DoggyMom):  I am particularly pleased to read in this media release that the researchers are recommending cooperation between industry, science and laypersons.  As a canine massage therapist, I have found the traditional ‘evidence-based medicine’ fraternity reluctant to involve specialists in other fields and particularly those that are not research scientists or veterinarians.
It is my hope that we can cooperate more in the future as we undertake research into dog health and behavior because by sharing different points of view and expertise, we develop a richer range of options in problem-solving.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Genoscoper Ltd. has published in cooperation with the researchers of University of Helsinki and Pennsylvania (USA) the most comprehensive study on canine hereditary disorders so far. The research brings new information about genetic disorders causing diseases in different dog breeds. The results can be utilized both in dog breeding and veterinary diagnostics. The study was published on PLOS ONE on 15 August 2016.
Dogs have more hereditary diseases than previously thought

Dogs have more hereditary diseases than previously thought. Photo: Eeva Karmitsa

– We noted that surprisingly many canine inherited disorders are actually more widespread than indicated by their original discovery studies, which opens up the door for several future scientific investigations, explains senior author Dr. Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki canine genetics research group.

– The technological potential to test a dog for multiple inherited disorders at once has existed for several years. The challenge is to harness that potential for practical use in improved veterinary disease diagnostics, sustainable breeding selections, personalized pet care, and canine genetics research, says lead author Dr. Jonas Donner of Genoscoper Laboratories. Genoscoper Ltd. is a Finnish company specialized in animal genetics and gene testing.

By testing nearly 7000 dogs representing around 230 different breeds for predisposition to almost 100 genetic disorders, the research team observed that 1 in 6 dogs carried at least one of the tested disease predisposing genetic variants in their genome. Moreover, 1 in 6 of the tested genetic variants was also discovered in a dog breed in which it had not previously been reported in the scientific literature. Through clinical follow up of dogs genetically at risk, the research team was able to confirm that several disorders cause the same disease signs also in other than previously described breeds.

– Precisely as we humans, every dog is likely to carry genetic predisposition for some inherited disorder, so we expect these numbers to grow as the numbers of tested disease variants, breeds, and dogs further increase, confirms Dr. Donner.

Co­oper­a­tion is key to health­ier dogs

– Our study demonstrates the importance of collaboration between different contributors – academics, industry and dog fanciers – to reach novel resources that not only enable better understanding of canine genetic health across breeds but also provides viable solutions to improve the health.  The published study provides also an excellent example of the added value of research collaborations between academia and industry in a form that leads to a powerful innovation that start changing the everyday practice in veterinary medicine and improves the welfare of our dogs, says Lohi.

Ge­netic panel screen­ing de­liv­ers res­ults

The study concludes that comprehensive screening for canine inherited disorders represents an efficient and powerful diagnostic and research discovery tool that has a range of applications in veterinary care, disease research, and dog breeding. The authors emphasize that availability of complex DNA-based information is important progress for improvement of the health of purebred dogs, but it should be utilized in combination with other established approaches that promote sustainable breeding and benefit breed health.

The full scientific publication can be accessed here.

Reference:
Donner J, Kaukonen M, Anderson H, Möller F, Kyöstilä K, Sankari S, Hytönen MK, Giger U and Lohi H. Genetic panel screening of nearly 100 mutations reveals new insights into the breed distribution of risk variants for canine hereditary disorders. PlosONE, 1(8): e0161005. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161005, 2016.

Source:  University of Helsinki media release

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:

 

All around me familiar faces…

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have been testing dogs to see if they can recognise faces in images and, more specifically, whether the dogs have a different response to the images of strangers vs those people who are familiar to them.

Copyright Sanni Somppi

Copyright Sanni Somppi

The eye movements of the dogs were measured while they watched facial images of familiar humans and dogs (e.g. the dog’s owner and another dog from the same household) being displayed on the computer screen. As a comparison, the dogs were shown facial images from dogs and humans that the dogs had never met.

Dogs preferred the faces of those familiar to them.

The results indicate that dogs were able to perceive faces in the images. Dogs looked at images of dogs longer than images of humans, regardless of the familiarity of the faces presented in the images.  Dogs scanned the images of familiar faces more thoroughly, too.

The research team concludes that dogs are able to see faces in the images and they differentiate familiar and strange faces from each other. These results indicate that dogs might have facial recognition skills which are similar to humans.

Source:  University of Helsinki media release

Dwarfism in dogs

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and Folkhälsan Research Center led by Professor Hannes Lohi have found a gene mutation that causes chondrodysplasia (dwarfism) in the Norwegian Elkhound and the Karelian Bear Dog.  They have published their results in the journal PLoS One.

Photo by Saija Nieminen

A dwarf Norwegian Elkhound, photo by Saija Nieminen

When affected by the condition, dogs have considerably shorter limbs than normal dogs.  Other skeletal abnormalities may follow which include bowed forearms, abnormal digits (toes), and malformed femoral heads.

The mutation affects the collagen receptors during bone growth.

“Both breeds have now benefited from a genetic test that is available for dog owners”, says Professor Lohi.  There is hope that the mutation can be eradicated from the breeding population through use of the test.

Source:  University of Helsinki press statement

Tail chasing – an obsessive compulsive disorder?

The genetics research group at the University of Helsinki has published its findings into a study of tail chasing in dogs.  The study involved 400 dogs and questionnaires to the owners about their dog’s behaviour.  Samples of each dog’s blood were also taken.

The questionnaires covered behaviours, aspects of the dog’s puppyhood and daily routines.  Owners were also asked to evaluate their dog’s personality.

Compulsive tail chasing can occur in any dog but is common in breeds such as the Bull Terrier and German Shepherd.  These breeds were included in the research, as were the Miniature Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The study aimed to describe the characteristics of tail chasing in dogs and to ascertain the environmental risk factors for the disorder.  The researchers also wanted to know if a previously identified gene that has been associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)  had a role to play.

What they found

  • The OCD gene that had been linked to other compulsive disorders in dogs was not associated with the tail chasing disorder
  • Dogs responded with less tail chasing when fed supplements of vitamins and minerals, although the researchers feel that more study is warranted to prove this link
  • Early separation from their mothers and/or poor care from their mother also predisposed dogs to compulsive tail chasing

Dogs may be a good model for studying OCD in humans because they are physiologically similar and share our environment.  Consequently, this research has wider implications.

The research paper is available in the 27 July 2012 edition of PloS ONE

Source:  University of Helsinki press release

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

Epilepsy gene discovery in dogs

The journal PLoS ONE has published research this week by Professor Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki.  Professor Lohi and his research team have isolated a gene linked to epilepsy in Belgian Shepherds.

The gene is found on canine chromosome 37.  The research team isolated the gene by comparing the genome of dogs with epilepsy against those of dogs that were in a healthy control group.  The gene could increase the risk of epilepsy by a factor of 7.

Genetic epilepsy is also referred to as ‘idiopathic epilepsy.’  A co-author on the article has said that as many as 20% of the Belgian Shepherd breed is estimated to have epilepsy and so the research could underpin the development of a genetic test for the disease.

Seizures can result in abnormal movements, usually on one side of the body, followed by cramping in the limbs.  Drooling and vomiting are other symptoms.

This research group is responsible for other genetic discoveries in dogs.  Through their research, the group has developed a canine DNA bank in Finland containing 40,000 samples from 250 different breeds of dogs.  They have previously identified the epilepsy gene EPM2B in Miniature Wirehaired Dachshunds and a gene LGI2 in Lagotto Romagnolos and collaborated with other researchers in the discovery of an epilepsy gene in Tibetan Terriers.

Source:  Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki) (2012, March 23).   New epilepsy gene located in dogs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/03/120323205337.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fplants_animals%2Fdogs
+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Plants+%26+Animals+News+–+Dogs%29