National Canine Cancer Foundation to fund a new innovative Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) Research Project

June 19th, 2014

I have some new exciting news. As you all know we are always trying to find an new edge in the battle against canine cancer. And Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is one of those cancers we would like to get a better handle on since it seems to end up being diagnosed too late to save the dog. In fact, we are so keen on finding out how to deal with HSA that we have actually initiated our own research project on HSA with G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. This is very exciting for the NCCF because this type of research on HSA has never been tried. Let me tell you how it all came about by first talking about a dog name Batman.

Batman was the first dog to undergo a breakthrough experimental treatment for brain cancer, led by doctors, G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. They developed a combination treatment plan for dogs with glioma, a very aggressive and relatively common form of brain cancer. First they removed the tumor surgically. Then, in some cases, they use local gene therapy to attract immune cells to destroy remaining tumor cells, and finally they created a personalized anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent tumor recurrence.

I personally love the thought of taking a cancer that was killing a dog and turning it into a personalized vaccine to kill the cancer!

Dr. Pluhar, a surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Ohlfest, head of the neurosurgery gene therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center, gave Batman his initial treatment in August 2008. Batman led a normal life unaffected by his tumor until his death from cardiac failure in February 2010, there was no tumor recurrence. According to the Dean of the College, Trevor Ames, DVM, MS, “the far-reaching implications of this promising new treatment are almost difficult to fathom; not only could these treatments lead to a cure for brain and other systemic cancers in dogs, but because dogs and humans share many physiological traits, dogs could also be the missing link in the cure for brain cancer in humans.”

Then something interesting happened. Almost one year ago, Davis Hawn’s then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal sinus. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster’s tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota’s canine brain tumor clinical program. Davis asked her to help his dog, but Dr. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for this type of cancer before. But Davis was not going to take no for an answer so she did agree to try. She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free.

Then after Davis contacted the NCCF to tell us about how well the vaccine works, we contacted Dr. Pluhar to ask if she would be willing to try the same research that was successful with brain cancer and skin cancer, and use the same protocol to try dealing with splenic HSA. The NCCF’s thinking is that with all these other cancers, the similarities were that the cancer had to be removed and a vaccine needed to be created from the cancer cells. With splenic HSA, one of the more common forms of HSA, the spleen is typically removed so we felt that Dr. Pluhar’s research could possibly work. With that in mind, we asked her if she could try and apply her protocol on splenic HSA. After doing some initial research she agreed to do the study based on reaching certain goals before going on to the next level.

First, she needs to insure that we can culture the cancer cells in the lab,

Second, she needs to insure that the tumor vaccines stimulate immune cells to attack tumor cells. If she can achieve these two steps she can go on to treat the HSA cancer. We could not be happier and are guardedly optimistic over this research project.

The cost for this project will be $55,500. I hope you are all as excited as we are about this research and will help fund the project. If you want to help with funding this new innovative NCCF’s initiated project please CLICK HERE or got to this link

Thank you

Gary D. Nice
President and Founder
National Canine Cancer Foundation

Early detection key in finding tumors in dogs

March 30th, 2015

Schautzie, was a cute 10-year-old Schnauzer sent to me for straining to urinate for the past two months. His family veterinarian had tried two courses of different antibiotics with no improvement. Talking to his owner, I (Perry Jameson) found out that he had been neutered as a puppy and had no major health problems until now. She described how two months ago he started having to go out and urinate more frequently and sometimes would strain and produce no urine.

I had almost completed my physical examination and not found any abnormalities. The last part of the exam is mine and the patient’s least favorite, the rectal. Unfortunately, it provides an amazing amount of information so has to be done.

In Schautzie’s case, I was most interested in how his urethra and prostate felt. It also allows me to assess his anal sacs, caudal portion of his colon, fecal consistency, and sublumbar lymph nodes. I found Schautzie to have an enlarged, irregular prostate.

The most commonly seen prostate problem in dogs is benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH. This is the same issue human men get that you see commercials for during sporting events.

In dogs that have not been neutered, this is considered a normal aging change as most will develop some degree of BPH. Many are asymptomatic and we only know by feeling a normally shaped but enlarged prostate on rectal examination.

If the prostate enlarges enough, however, it will cause problems. Interestingly, the most common symptom is straining to defecate. As the prostate grows, it actually puts pressure on the dog’s colon, causing an increased urge to defecate and sometimes difficulty doing so. Less commonly, we see straining to urinate, increased frequency of urination and blood in the urine.

Since lifelong exposure to male hormones induces gradual growth, the best treatment is to take these hormones away by castration. Within a few weeks, the prostate shrinks in size and usually within 2-3 months all symptoms resolve.

There are occasionally parents who do not want to neuter their pets. The same medication used in humans to block the conversion of testosterone to the form that stimulates prostatic growth can be used. These medications usually improve symptoms within 2-3 weeks. The biggest drawback is if they are stopped, the prostate will enlarge again, so they must be given life-long.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia can predispose dogs to other problems with prostatitis being the most common. This is a bacterial infection of the prostate that rarely occurs in neutered male dogs that do not get BPH. They can have the same symptoms of straining to urinate and defecate but often these are accompanied with abdominal pain, stiffness in the rear legs and fever. I have seen dogs severely ill from prostatitis, requiring several days of hospitalization to treat with intravenous antibiotics and fluids. Therapy is four to six weeks of antibiotics and castration as soon as possible.

(Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson)

Once a dog develops prostatitis, if the BPH is not resolved, they will usually have repeated bouts for the remainder of their lives.

Fluid-filled cysts often develop as part of BPH. These cysts can be extremely enlarged. Often dogs with cysts will leak a red-tinged fluid making Mom and Dad think he is incontinent. Sometimes this may be the only symptom, or all the same issues noted with BPH may be observed. These usually require abdominal surgery combined with castration to fully resolve.

An abscess can develop following prostatitis and cyst formation. These, too, require surgical intervention, castration and prolonged antibiotic therapy.

Dogs get prostatic cancer just like people and, unfortunately, following my examination, this is what I suspected Schautzie had. This is the primary reason a neutered male dog will develop an enlarged prostate since they rarely develop BPH. I performed an ultrasound revealing one side to be larger than the other and contain mineral deposits, both concerning for neoplastic change. Mom allowed me to obtain an aspirate with a small needle. The sample was submitted to a pathologist and two days later, she confirmed what we feared, prostatic carcinoma.

I explained to Mom that by the time we diagnose these in dogs, most cancers have spread elsewhere (lungs, lymph nodes, liver or bone). There are no great treatment options for dogs like in humans. We could attempt to surgically remove his prostate with most dogs surviving about five months following the surgery. Also around 50 percent will develop urinary incontinence since removing the prostate may damage the nerves that keep urine in his balder. Intraoperative radiation therapy may extend this a few months more.

Schautzie’s Mom elected the final option we discussed. This is the use of an aspirin-like medication, feldene, which may slow tumor growth and reduce tumor size temporarily. He responded for a month, then his symptoms progressively returned over the next month and his parents elected euthanasia.

I have to believe an earlier diagnosis would help our outcomes. Unfortunately, the markers, for example PSA, used in people do not work for dogs. The basic rectal exam remains the best way to detect these tumors and other forms of prostate disease in dogs.

Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC.

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson

9 Ways Your Dog Knows You Better Than Anyone Else

March 29th, 2015

When I was in high school, I experienced my first real heartbreak. I was in the lowest of moods and moped around the house like a modern-day Eyesore. Everyone left me alone to “grieve” in peace – everyone, that is, except for my dog.

Sapp followed me around like a shadow as I sulked and quietly hid in my room to cry. He even resorted to sleeping on my pillow – right next to my face – that night. The next morning I was in better spirits (and so was he).

My story isn’t uncommon. Pups really are a man’s best friend – and there’s research that backs this up. One study found that dogs can not only read our emotions, but they act accordingly based on how we’re feeling. How’s that for intuitive?

Below are nine other ways our furry friends understand and adapt to our complex personalities, effectively making us happier and healthier humans.

They can help reduce anxiety.

Stress is no match for cuddles with our pets. Research shows that we’re just automatically happier when Fido’s around. One study out of Georgia State University found that dogs can reduce feelings of stress and loneliness in college students, and research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that owning a pet can make us happier overall. We can’t think of a cuter anxiety-reliever.

They get jealous.

We aren’t the only ones who fall victim to the green-eyed monster. Dogs get jealous too, according to one study conducted by the University of California, San Diego. Researchers found that dogs displayed signs of the emotion when they saw their owners interacting with a stuffed, animatronic dog. Sound like a familiar social scene you’ve experienced? In other words, we even share our flaws with our fluffy pals.

We naturally bond with them.

Our connection with canines may all come down to a hormone in our brains — something we biologically produce on our own. When we cuddle with our pet, oxytocin (AKA the love hormone) is released and it may cause dogs to pay better attention to their humans. As a result, the relationship between the two becomes stronger.

They can read our facial expressions.

Dogs can tell if we’re happy or angry by reading the emotions on our face, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Current Biology. Thus proving our pups really are sensitive to our feelings and behaviors (and perhaps explains why they just knowwhen you’re going through that rough breakup).

They help us heal.

Dogs don’t just bring up comfort in our own homes, they relieve the stress of others who may be suffering traumatic setbacks. Therapy dogs, used for catastrophic events like the Boston Bombings and even for veterans who’ve returned from their tours, bring a big light to situations otherwise laced with darkness. Studies show these specially-trained dogs can help ease PTSD.

They’re intuitive when it comes to our health.

Dog ownership isn’t just great for us on an emotional level. Research shows our pups may also help protect our physical well-being. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so much so that they may be able to sniff out something you’re allergic to if it’s lurking in the room (peanut allergies, anyone?). Not only that, dogs may also be able to detect certain types of cancer in humans. Some dogs are also trained to help assist when you’re having a seizure.

Their germs may actually be good for us.

Studies have found that owning a dog may help keep us healthier through the swapping of their (harmless!) bacteria. Research shows that a greater exposure to these microbes may help build a stronger immune system. Bring on the puppy kisses.

They consider us family.

We know they’re apart of our family — right down to a photo on the Christmas card — but it turns out they also consider us part of their’s as well. Researchers examined brain scans of canines and found that they not only love us, they see us as part of their tribe and rely on us more than their own breed for affection and protection.

They love us for exactly who we are.

It doesn’t matter what your hobbies are, what kind of money you make or if your hair color is purple, dogs accept you for who you are, no matter the circumstances. And boy, do they know how to show it. Take this guy who was abroad for two years and returned home to the happiest reaction from his pup. Or this patient canine who allows his toddler to give him a thorough checkup. Dogs love us unconditionally — and we love them for that reason.

Article reposted from:
By Lindsay Holmes

Smoker says passive smoking was to blame for the death of her dog

March 26th, 2015

When her beloved dog collapsed and had to be rushed to the vet, Heather Goddard was horrified.

The grandmother was left grief-stricken when tests showed Clover, an eight-year-old crossbreed, had lung cancer and would have to be put down.

But the biggest shock came when she was told that her dog’s death was caused by passive smoking – the result of being in the house as she and her husband Keith puffed through 30 cigarettes each a day.

Devastated: 62-year-old Heather Goddard, from Seaton Delaval, said her dog got lung cancer after inhaling the toxic chemicals from tobacco smoke – she is now speaking out to protect pets in the future

Happier times: Ms Goddard, with husband Keith, granddaughters Chelsea and Leona and dog Roger, quit smoking a year ago and has been told she now smells ‘like a proper grandma, which is lovely to hear’

Now Mrs Goddard, 61, has quit smoking and is alerting other pet owners to the dangers posed to animals by second-hand smoke.

She and Mr Goddard, 67, of Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, were walking Clover in a park when the rescue dog became ill.

They took her to a veterinary practice in Morpeth, where they were told she had black spots on her lungs and was also suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The vet said nothing more could be done for Clover, adding that the cause of her cancer was passive smoking.

‘Knowing my smoking was to blame was like somebody had just put a bullet into my heart. It was a nightmare that had come true,’ said Mrs Goddard, a retired cleaner who has another dog, Roger, as well as two cats and a rabbit.

‘Clover was a lovely dog. She was friendly and there wasn’t a bad bone in her body.

Fond memories: She says thinking about Clover ‘brings a tear to my eye just thinking about the damage my smoking was doing’ – she is now hoping to inform others about the dangers of second-hand smoke

Clover had to be put down after a scan showed up black spots on her lungs

‘She showed no signs or symptoms of being ill. We had no idea why she had collapsed until we took her to the vets. It was such a shock.

‘You don’t think about your animals but they are just like us. They can get illnesses like diabetes and cancer the same as us.’ Mrs Goddard says she now regrets exposing her family and her animals to years of cigarette smoke in the house and the car.

She added: ‘I think I would have tried to give up earlier if I had known the damage it was doing to my animals. As long as the animals were fed I would be happy to go without food but I had to have my cigarettes.

‘I didn’t connect passive smoking with animals. You don’t realise how much of it they are taking in. My grandchildren are only here once or twice a week but our pets are with us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.’

It still took her nearly three years following Clover’s death before she managed to quit her 30-a-day habit – and by then she too had been diagnosed with chronic lung disease.

Her husband has also given up smoking, much to the delight of their three children and eight grandchildren.

Mrs Goddard, who had smoked for 40 years, said: ‘I feel a lot healthier now I have stopped.

‘I can walk to the end of the path without getting as out of breath and I don’t use my inhalers as much.

New start: Ms Goddard pictured with her grandchildren – who are ‘always happy that I no longer smoke’

My grandchildren tell me they are glad I stopped smoking because I don’t smell of smoke any more. When I gave up smoking that stopped my illness from getting any worse.’

She hopes by speaking out she will alert other animal owners and help protect more pets from the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke.

‘I would tell anyone who smokes and has animals to think twice,’ she said. ‘I know how difficult it is to give up but they need to think about their animals. Don’t give up trying, even if you have two cigarettes less a day.’

The British Veterinary Association has long warned of the dangers of smoking around pets, saying it can lead to incidents of cancer, asthma and bronchitis in cats and dogs.

Story reposted from:
By Jaya Narain

When Cancer in Dogs Isn't Just Bad Luck

March 24th, 2015

While it’s true research has shown that a roll of the dice determines most cases of cancer, there is an area where the incidence of cancer is not a function of bad luck but of something more concrete: genetics. As a follow-up to my earlier article, I thought it would be useful to look at why this is so and to also consider that, if there is a silver lining here, it is that the predisposition for developing cancer among certain breeds may provide researchers with tools to better study cancer in dogs and ultimately in people.

American Golden Retrievers are more prone to hemangiosarcoma than U.K. Goldens. This suggests that the risk of the deadly tumor is related to a genetic alteration. (Image credit: Thinkstock)

A Closed Gene Pool

From a genetic standpoint, each breed of purebred dog is a closed, isolated population. Because a registered dog must have ancestors who were registered as well, no new genes enter a purebred dog population, except in extraordinary situations sanctioned by the breed registry. Every purebred dog is a relative, albeit a distant one, of the other dogs within that breed. Since most dogs are never bred but instead live out their lives as pets, the “doggie gene pool” remains relatively small. Selective breeding for each registry maintains the puppy face of the Bernese Mountain Dog, the mahogany coat color of the Hungarian Vizsla and the fluffy black fur of the Flat-Coated Retriever. However, genes that increase a dog’s risk of developing cancer also seem to have tagged along with the genes that control things like facial features, coat color and fur fluffiness. Those genes place these three breeds at the top of the list of dogs with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

A Genetic Treasure Trove

If there is an upside to the limited genetic diversity of purebred dogs, it is their unsurpassed ability to elucidate the genetics behind various cancers and other hereditary diseases. Using the map of the canine genome and the extensive family trees from purebred dogs, the DNA of dogs with a high risk of developing a certain kind of cancer can be compared to dogs with a low risk of developing that type of cancer. The genetic differences identified are likely areas of the canine genome where the genes for increased cancer risk lie. Once the genes are identified, tests can be developed and used to help avoid breeding individual dogs with the “bad genes.” Right now, scientists are just at the point of identifying these genes.

In part, the common ancestry of dogs has perpetuated mutations that increase the risk of or directly cause cancer. Genetic analysis of wolves and dogs shows divergence of dogs from ancestral wolves around 11,000 to 16,000 years ago. Ancient Australian and African breeds, such as the Dingo and Basenji, became distinct about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, but most of the modern breeds of dogs, like Mastiffs and Herding dogs, are quite recent innovations in dog breeding, stemming only from Victorian times.

The Mastiff Group, which for genetic purposes here is different from the traditional Sporting, Working andHound Groups we see breeds organized into at dog shows, is a genetically determined grouping of related dogs. This Mastiff Group includes several genetically related dog breeds that have an increased risk of cancer. For example, Boxers are prone to mast cell tumors, Bernese Mountain Dogs to histiocytic sarcoma, Golden Retrievers to lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma, and Rottweilers to osteosarcoma. The exact genetic abnormality resulting in an increased risk of cancer in these and other predisposed breeds is still under intense investigation and supported by the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Health Foundation and theMorris Animal Foundation, to name two of the major funding agencies behind this groundbreaking research.

The Golden Effect

Let’s take a look at just one popular breed to see how the genetics of cancer play out. The honey-coatedGolden Retriever, who originated in the United Kingdom, was recognized by the AKC in 1925 and ranks third in popularity among AKC registered breeds.

The large number of Golden Retrievers in the United States, plus their devoted families, has resulted in an active research community surrounding this beloved breed. That’s good, because Golden Retrievers are known to have a high risk of hemangiosarcoma, a deadly tumor found in several areas of the body including the spleen, liver and heart. When scientists study the DNA of Goldens diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and compare it to other breeds of dogs diagnosed with the same disease, the genetic abnormalities are different. Interestingly, American Golden Retrievers differ from their U.K. counterparts: Goldens from the U.K. are largely spared this dreaded disease. When studied in a laboratory, the genes of American and U.K. Goldens are significantly different, suggesting that the risk of hemangiosarcoma is related to a relatively recent genetic alteration.

Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) is another type of cancer commonly diagnosed in Golden Retrievers. The manifestation of lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma appears to be unrelated except for the frequent occurrence of both in Golden Retrievers. Now, through study of the canine genome, researchers have identified genetic alterations common to Goldens with either lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma. These alterations, or mutations, modify the regulation of the immune system’s surveillance for tumor cells, currently thought to be a common mechanism underlying the occurrence of these two dissimilar tumors in this breed.

Size and Color Play a Role

Though genes are important in the development of certain cancers, a single gene is unlikely to be the sole cause of cancer. For example, the genes controlling size appear to also play a role in the development of canine osteosarcoma, the most common form of bone cancer in dogs. Whippets and Greyhounds are physically very similar, with the Whippet being an apparently smaller version of the Greyhound. The similarity continues at the level of their DNA, and these two breeds are genetically very similar when their genes are compared in a laboratory. However, their risk of developing osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, is very different. This deadly tumor occurs commonly in Greyhounds but is rare in Whippets. In fact, it is uncommon in all dogs weighing less than 25 kilograms, suggesting that the genes controlling body size also play a role in the development of osteosarcoma in dogs.

Genes influencing coat color can also apparently play a role in cancer development. I have cared for a number of black Standard Poodles with multiple toes affected by nail bed (the skin at the base of the toe)squamous cell carcinoma, but never a white, brown or apricot poodle. Recently released data shows a genetic basis for my clinical observation. Standard Poodles diagnosed with nail bed squamous cell carcinoma have a variation in the number of copies of a gene known as KITLG. A similar number of light-coated Standard Poodles also have the same variation in the number of copies of the KITLG, but a simultaneous mutation in a different gene in the lighter-coated poodles apparently protects them from the cancer-promoting effects of the bad gene. Even more interesting is the finding of this same variation in the KITLG gene inBriards and Giant Schnauzers, two other black-coated breeds with an increased risk of developing nail bed squamous cell carcinoma.

What Can You Do?

When selecting a canine companion, it’s important to realize that any breed, as well as mixed-breed dogs, can and do get cancer – that’s where “bad luck” or other factors can come into play. And even if cancer isn’t listed as a health risk for a particular breed, that’s no guarantee a dog won’t get cancer.

But no matter which breed you are considering, do your homework before selecting the next addition to the family. Each recognized AKC breed has a breed club, and the Web page of the breed club typically includes information on the health issues for that breed. Talk to breeders before purchasing a puppy and ask how they are working with the breed club and the AKC to address the health concerns, including cancer, of their breed. Responsible breeders understand the health issues of their breed and support research to improve the breed. Be diligent about taking your dog for regular veterinary examinations and be aware of the early signs of cancer. Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding all necessary screening tests and, finally, support research to improve the health of your breed through clinical trials and/or the donation of blood or tumor samples from your dog.

Even though cancer is not a topic anyone really wants to think about regarding his/her favorite furry companion, all this talk is very promising for the future of dogs. Because veterinary scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of cancer in dogs, we will soon have new and better methods of prevention, detection and treatment for these diseases.

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

National Puppy Day Raises Awareness About Orphaned Pups

March 23rd, 2015

Dog lovers, give your little furry friend an extra hug and treat today. Monday is National Puppy Day.

Celebrity Pet & Home Life Style expert and author Colleen Paige founded the holiday in 2006 to “help save orphaned puppies across the globe and educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills,” according to the website for National Puppy Day.

Image credit: Getty Images

“National Puppy is a special day to celebrate the magic and unconditional love that puppies bring to our lives,” the website said.

The holiday is also internationally recognized and has trended on Twitter across the world since annually since 2012, according to the website.

Paige is also the founder of National Dog Day and National Cat Day.

More information is available at

Article reposted from:

Beloved Seattle police dog retiring after terminal cancer diagnosis

March 22nd, 2015

A dedicated Seattle police dog will be retiring following a cancer diagnosis – and his heartbroken partner is retiring from the K9 Unit, as well.

(Craig Williamson and his partner, Dennis)

KOMO 4 News reported yesterday that bomb detection dog Dennis, who has patrolled the streets of Seattle for six years, will be retiring after receiving the devastating diagnosis.

Dennis’ partner, Officer, Craig Williamson, was the first to notice that the yellow Labrador retriever was having difficulty breathing and appeared to be fatigued. Several weeks ago, Officer Williamson took Dennis to a veterinarian, where he learned that his partner had fluid in his chest and nodules on his heart, diaphragm, and chest lining.

KIRO 7 reported yesterday that Dennis, who is a familiar sight at Seahawks and Mariners games, has been on more than 1,000 calls with his partner.

Williamson stated: “He’s been with me, literally every single solitary day for 5 1/2 years. It’s devastating. I’ve been working with him for 5 1/2 years…and he’s my life.

Dennis is currently undergoing chemotherapy and Williamson, who decided that he cannot go on with the K9 Unit after the devastating news, hopes to make Dennis’ life as happy and healthy as possible. He stated:

Williamson’s work is inextricably linked to working with dogs, and after his retirement from the K9 Unit, he isn’t sure where he’ll work next. He stated:

And while the K9 team earned SPD Officer of the year in 2012, Dennis was happy to just earn some treats for a job well done.

Williamson added: ““It’s a shame a creature like this can steal your heart but it can also shatter it. He’s my life. I’ll have to learn to know what to do without him.”

There will be a retirement ceremony for Dennis next week.

Please join Seattle Pets Examiner in thanking Dennis for his service to our community. And to Officer Williamson: The community is here for you during this difficult time. Thank you for your dedication to our city and your devotion to your partner.

Story reposted from:
By Tracy Campion

Dog bacteria might benefit human health

March 20th, 2015

Arizona researchers are studying the biological connection between humans and dogs that could be shared through saliva, skin, and even feces.

Scientists at the University of Arizona created the Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative (HAIRI) to study the health links between humans and animals.

“We’ve noticed that the human-non-human interaction is something that happens all around us, all the time,” said Netzin Steklis, a lecturer in Family Studies and Human Development at UA and co-founder of HAIRI.

Animal behavior specialists Netzin Steklis and Dieter Steklis study the relationship between humans and apes, and they aim to translate their knowledge to other animal-human relationships. The couple owns Orion, an 8-year-old black Lab that is more of a family member than a pet.

“It’s a peculiar human occupation, to hang out with animals,” said Dieter, professor of Psychology and Anthropology at UA. “Under natural circumstances, this is something we’ve done for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s a mutual relationship.”

This relationship is the backbone of HAIRI’s research into “Dogs as Probiotics.” Founded in October, HAIRI has gathered researchers from around UA and Arizona, and research on dogs is their first undertaking.

The study was partly inspired by recent research at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2013, where a study showed married couples share more “microbiota” with their dog than with one another.

Beneficial bacteria on skin and in the gastrointestinal tract help prevent inflammation and other disease-causing bacteria. The study found that not only do people share this microbiome by living in the same place, but their dogs actually share more of this gut bacteria with them than other humans.

“We know kids in the West that are raised with animals, particularly dogs, show less autoimmune disorders,” said Kim Kelly, a doctoral student in medical anthropology at the UA and HAIRI program coordinator. “That means something is going on. How did humans coevolve with dogs and what does that mean for our modern day relationship with dogs?”

Partnering with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, HAIRI will pair older adults in Arizona with foster dogs, and over the course of three months their health will be monitored and compared by testing saliva, skin, and fecal samples.

“We’re hoping we’ll see a correlation between positive microbes being passed from the dog to the human,” Kelly said.

The study is currently in a recruitment phase, and researchers are seeking Arizona volunteers over the age of 50 who have not owned a dog in the past six months. They will be screened and paired with a dog from the Humane Society, which will provide veterinary care, food, and training for the duration of the study. At the end of the study, they will have the option to adopt the dog they have been paired with.

Charles Raison, the principal investigator of the study, focuses on inflammation and its subsequent development of depression. His neurobiological studies might find a link in mental health, in addition to the physical health benefits of owning a dog.

“It’s always surprised me how many diseases and disorders are linked to inflammatory processes that link back to your immune system,” Dieter said. “If having a dog actually tames your immune system, which is what it seems to do, then elderly who have a dog may have a lower chance of depressive illnesses.”

“If dogs can help with that,” said Netzin, “that’s a significant health link.”

Netzin and Dieter Steklis predict new courses about animal-human relationships will be taught at universities, new careers will become available for researchers, and possible commercial applications will cater to the relationship between people and their pets.

“Even though Arizona is chock-full of animal-assisted therapy,” said Netzin, “there isn’t such an institute in this state, or even this region. So this is a clear need. This feeds into our ‘animality,’ which is that we have this interest, this curiosity, this love (for animals).”

Data collection is expected to be completed by the end of August, and HAIRI is currently in the development phase of studying “animality” as well as equine therapy for children with autism, which calms and focuses them through horseback riding. HAIRI’s list of research topics continues to grow as they ask questions and connect with others interested in this new area of study.

“For a long time it seemed like a non-legitimate area of scientific study,” Netzin said. “Now it’s reached legitimacy. Now it’s entered into mainstream science.”

HAIRI is not alone in Arizona dog research. Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), in Phoenix, aims to translate genomic discoveries about dogs in order to benefit both humans and canines.

The Program for Canine Health & Performance through TGen seeks to discover canine genetic links in cancer, deafness, inflammation, and movement disorders among other maladies that strike both species.

TGen’s canine research is also unique to Arizona, and the research being conducted in comparison to human health is a relatively new enterprise, according to Victoria Zismann, a key researcher for the TGen’s Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium.

Zismann examines melanoma in dogs, and seeks to translate the knowledge gained about a dog’s progression of cancer to humans. Most melanoma in canines is oral, an area not exposed to the sun. This varies from human melanoma cases, which stem mostly from sun exposure. Zismann believes using canine melanoma as a model of study will provide insight into human mucosal melanoma, a relatively rare cancer that receives less attention.

“With all the advancements in science within the last 10 years or so in genomic profiling, we can look at a whole organism’s genome all at once,” Zismann said. “We’re seeing some of the same mutations, the same occurrences between us and canines, which is something we’ve never been able to do with prior technology.”

Dogs are one of few animals that develop naturally occurring cancers, similar to spontaneous cancers in humans. Because humans and canines generally share an environment, TGen seeks to find the link between the cancers, which may be more prominent than originally believed.

“Do dogs respond to the same cancer treatments as humans?” wonders Zismann. “Can we learn things that maybe we can translate to humans?”

Because dogs have a shorter life span than humans, they have a compressed disease cycle that is easier to study over a shorter period of time. According to TGen, an example of human disease research may require 4,000 samples, but a parallel study of dogs may only require 30 samples.

Samples are gathered from veterinarian offices of dogs diagnosed with cancer, regardless of their breed. The researchers also collect control samples from healthy dogs, particularly purebred dogs that have carried down their genetic predispositions through thousands of years.

“You have a greater chance of finding a predisposition in something that is less complex than you do in the human,” Zismann said.

The Program for Canine Health & Performance is also currently researching other areas of dog health, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis in terriers, deafness and hearing health, and neurological canine predispositions.

“Dog owners have been one of the most open and caring people I’ve worked with,” said Zismann. “If their dog is sick, they’re wonderful about finding the best help and wanting to become part of our studies—so they can help other dogs, too.”

Article reposted from:
By Kalli Ricka Wolf – Arizona Sonora News

Does your dog have food allergies?

March 18th, 2015

Just as we can develop food allergies, so can man’s best friend.

Food allergies occur when a dog’s immune system mistakenly treats a specific protein as harmful and responds with antibodies that trigger a series of symptoms. Proteins are present not only in meats, but also in grains and vegetables, so any commercial dog food could cause an allergic reaction.

When your dog is on a special diet, don't feed him any other foods, including treats, unless recommended by your veterinarian. (Photo: Amy/flickr)

While dogs can be allergic nearly any ingredient, there are certain foods that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction. These include the following:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Egg
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Dairy

When a dog has an allergic reaction to a food, symptoms can vary, but they can include any of the following:

  • Itchy skin and scratching, especially in the ears and rear end
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen paws
  • Constant licking

Every time a dog eats the offending food, the immune system’s overreaction becomes greater, so continuing to feed your dog the same food can result in serious health issues.

Dogs can develop food allergies at any stage of life, and while they can occur in any breed, they’re especially common in setters, terriers, retrievers and flat-faced breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

What to do if you suspect your dog has food allergies

If you think your dog may be reacting to a food, visit your veterinarian. He or she may be able to determine the source of your dog’s allergic reaction, but if not, he or she will likely recommend blood or skin tests or suggest an elimination diet.

Elimination diets isolate which food your dog is allergic to by feeding him a protein and carbohydrate source that he’s never eaten before. Common foods used in such a diet include sweet potatoes, ground turkey, kangaroo, oatmeal, venison or potato.

If your dog doesn’t react to the new foods, you can then begin adding different ingredients back into his diet until you notice your pet having an allergic reaction.

Once you’ve identified the offending food or foods, you and your veterinarian can then design a diet that’s free of any triggers.

Your vet may also recommend that your dog eat a hypoallergenic diet. Hypoallergenic foods typically have fewer ingredients and feature novel proteins like bison, fish, kangaroo or pheasant.

Ingredients like lamb and rice were once considered hypoallergenic because they were rarely used in most commercial dog foods; however, many dogs have now developed allergies to these foods.

While your dog is on any special diet, it’s important not to give him any treats or rawhides unless your veterinarian says it’s OK.

If your dog is still having allergic reactions after changing his diet, he may be allergic to something else in his environment such as pollen or a medication and your veterinarian will likely recommend further testing.

Article reposted from:
By Laura Moss

Knowing the signs of a rare canine cancer

March 17th, 2015

Invasive TCC is a rare disease overall, but it’s the most common cancer of the urinary tract in dogs. Certain breeds are at higher risk: Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, West Highland white terriers and wirehaired fox terriers.

Invasive TCC is a rare disease overall, but it's the most common cancer of the urinary tract in dogs. (iStock)

We don’t know exactly what causes the disease, but researchers suspect a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors, including exposure to lawns treated with herbicides and insecticides. At highest risk are obese female dogs.

Symptoms can mimic those of urinary tract infections: blood in the urine, straining to urinate and frequently recurring urinary tract infections. The disease is diagnosed through a tissue biopsy, obtained with a fiber-optic scope inserted into the bladder.

If the tissue sample is determined to be cancerous, your veterinarian or the oncologist (cancer specialist) can follow up with radiographs (X-rays), ultrasound or a CT scan to determine the location and size of the tumor and whether the disease has spread to other areas of the body.

If possible, the tumor is removed surgically. Otherwise, chemotherapy drugs and cox inhibitors may help to shrink it or prevent it from growing. With treatment, dogs have a good chance of living two years or more.

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