Archive for June, 2013

Banfield survey leads to suggestions for improving pet longevity

Friday, June 28th, 2013

4770_thumbBanfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health Report for 2013 finds that life expectancy for dogs increased by 4% since 2002 while that of cats increased by 10%. Veterinarian Jeffrey Klausner, Banfield’s chief medical officer, cautioned that a downward trend in veterinary appointments could reverse health gains for pets. Dr. Klausner suggests several steps owners in any locale can take to improve the chances their pet will live a long, healthy life, including having twice-yearly veterinary exams, spaying/neutering and keeping cats indoors. Dale’s Pet World blog (6/13)

here’s no U.S. Centers for Disease Control for pets. Until recently, veterinarians greatly practiced in a medical bubble, only knowing what they were seeing in their own clinics. With a database of more than 800 hospitals in 43 states, Banfield the Pet Hospital, is trying to change that. The company has been keeping tabs for several years on medical conditions and other information about pets, according to the 2013 Banfield State of Pet Health Report.

One issue Banfield researched in their survey of pets, conducted in 2012, is longevity: “We’ve known all along that cats live longer than dogs, and small dogs live longer than larger dogs,” says Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, medical director at Banfield, based in Portland, OR. “However, we never knew about how geography might impact longevity.”

Overall, our dogs are living longer. The average lifespan in 2012 was 11 years, up about four percent since 2002. Cats are also living longer, for an average of 12 years, that’s up 10 percent since 2002.

The five U.S. states where cats have the longest life expectancy:

  1. Montana
  2. Colorado
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Illinois
  5. Nebraska

The five states where dogs enjoy the longest lives:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Montana,
  3. Oregon
  4. New Mexico
  5. Colorado

Interestingly, only Montana and Colorado appear on both those lists.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the top five states with the longest life expectancies for people 1999 to 2001):

  1. Hawaii
  2. Minnesota
  3. North Dakota
  4. Connecticut
  5. Utah

Banfield reports that these are the five states where cats have the shortest life spans:Delaware

  1. Delaware
  2. Ohio
  3. Louisiana
  4. Kentucky
  5. Mississippi

Here are the five states where dogs have the shortest life expectancies:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alabama
  3. Louisiana
  4. Delaware
  5. Massachusetts

Apparently, Delaware, Louisiana and Mississippi aren’t states where pets thrive, at least to their full potential.

According to U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control data, these are the five states with the shortest life spans for people (1999-2001):

  1. Kentucky
  2. South Carolina
  3. Alabama
  4. Louisiana
  5. Mississippi

While surprisingly, no states correlate where people and pets enjoy the longest life spans, Louisiana and Mississippi are on the list for cats, dogs and people with the shortest life expectancies.

So should people escape some states with their pets and move to others where their animals may live longer? “No, I hope not,” says Klausner. “We don’t know the significance of the data. We do know there are some steps individual pet owners can make to increase life spans. As more people spay/neuter their pets, their life spans increase. No doubt, keeping more cats indoors also plays a role. And certainly seeing veterinarians twice a year is likely to increase life span.”

As veterinary visits decline, as they have been in recent years, Klausner is concerned that this trend of pets living longer could potentially be reversed. Or perhaps pets would even be living longer than they currently do if more of them received twice-annual preventive care exams.

According to the Banfield report, the most common diagnoses for dogs were:

  1.  Dental tartar
  2.  Otitis externa (ear infection)
  3.  Overweight
  4.  Dermatitits (skin infection)
  5.  Fleas

In cats, the most common diagnoses included:

  1. Dental calculus
  2. Overweight
  3. Fleas
  4. Gingivitis
  5. Otitis externa (ear infection)

Overweight pets are an epidemic. According to the Banfield report, in the past five years, the prevalence of significant excess body weight has increased 37 percent in dogs, and 90 percent in cats. This doesn’t come without consequences, contributing greatly to the 38 percent rise in arthritis in dogs and 67 increase in cats over the past five years. Diabetes in cats and dogs has about doubled over the past five years.

“Weight gain, especially in cats, happens gradually and may be difficult for owners to know has happened,” adds Klausner. “Simply weighing the pet twice a year is important.”

The Banfield survey also tallied the most common pet names. For cats, they are:

  1.  Kitty
  2. Bella
  3. Tiger
  4. Max
  5. Smokey

The most popular names for dogs include:

  1.  Bella
  2. Max
  3. Buddy
  4. Daisy
  5. Coco

See more survey results

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

Newly identified genetic defect in dogs similar to rare human illness

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Researchers discovered a genetic ailment afflicting dogs that is similar to a rare defect in humans called centronuclear myopathy. It results in extreme muscle weakness that eventually leads to death before the age of 18 in humans, and research could lead to treatments for both dogs and humans. Roughly six in 100,000 human infants are born with the disorder, and researchers tapped an international network of veterinarians and identified five dogs with the same genetic defect and symptoms. Studies on two colonies of dogs have tested new treatments. “Thanks to genomic comparison, we are understanding finally that dogs and humans are sick in the same way and can be treated the same way,” said veterinarian and geneticist Laurent Tiret. “Dogs help us and we help them.” Now blog (6/13)

A rare genetic disease may be going to the dogs. About six in 100,000 babies are born with centronuclear myopathy, which weakens skeletal muscles so severely that children have trouble eating and breathing and often die before age 18. Now, by discovering a very similar condition in canines, researchers have a means to diagnose the disease, unravel its molecular intricacies, and target new therapies.

The story began when Jocelyn Laporte, a geneticist at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology in Strasbourg, France, uncovered the genetic roots of an odd form of centronuclear myopathy that showed up in a Turkish family. Three children, two of them fraternal twins, were born normal. Then, at the age of 3-and-a-half, they grew progressively and rapidly ill. (Most forms of the illness do not come on so suddenly.) The twins died by the age of 9. Their younger brother recently reached the same age but is very ill. Investigators traced the problem to a mutation in a gene called BIN1, which makes a protein that helps shape the muscle so that it can respond to nerve signals that initiate muscle contraction.

To find out how mutations in this gene could lead to such dire consequences, other researchers tried to genetically engineer mice models. But deleting the BIN1 gene failed to recreate the disease in mice, so the researchers had to look elsewhere.

Enter the dogs.

Laporte’s team joined with geneticist and veterinarian Laurent Tiret, at the Alfort School of Veterinary Medicine in Paris, to tap a network of vets in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and France. The idea was to track down and analyze dogs that had spontaneously acquired a similar condition. Because of their longer lifespans and larger size, the canines could model how the disease progresses and might respond to new therapies. Using veterinary records and muscle biopsies, the researchers found five dogs with features that mimicked human symptoms. The animals first showed problems at the age of 6 months, collapsing after exercise due to muscle weakness, for example. Biopsies of their muscle tissue also appeared similar to those of afflicted children.

Gene sequencing confirmed that the animals bore an analogous DNA mutation to the one seen in humans, which removes a large chunk of the BIN1 gene, known as exon 11. The finding of dogs with a similar defect that developed similar symptoms was key to confirming that the BIN1 is, indeed, the culprit in the human disease, Laporte says.

The team then tackled the question of how the BIN1 mutation causes such devastation. Using genomics tools, studies in cells, and analyses of biopsies, the researchers showed that the problem hovers around the formation of balloonlike structures called T-tubules deep in the muscle fibers. They are part of a muscle structure called a triad that helps convert electrical stimuli from nerve cells into mechanical muscle motion. When the T-tubules gradually become faulty, due to mutation, the muscles cannot receive the electrical stimulus to properly contract, leading to devastating symptoms. First comes muscle pain during exercise and trouble with walking, then weakness in muscles that control eye movement, and eventually problems with breathing. Using the dogs, researchers correlated the destruction of the tubules to these kinds of symptoms, as they report this month in PLOS Genetics.

Going forward, dogs will continue to be critical to unraveling this disease, Tiret says. In addition to the Great Danes, researchers, including Laporte, have found Labrador retrievers that bear two other gene mutations that cause different forms of recessive centronuclear myopathy, one linked to chromosome 2 and the other to the X chromosome. The investigators have bred those animals into two colonies. They can be used to study the natural progression of the illnesses and also to test new treatments, such as gene therapy. In fact, those treatments are already showing promise in the dogs, improving leg strength and diaphragm function during breathing, paving the way for clinical trials in humans.

The canines get around a huge hurdle that mice, zebrafish, and other organisms present when researchers try to recapitulate human disease. Often, those smaller animals express the genetic abnormality very differently from humans, says clinical scientist and pediatric neurologist James Dowling at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who studies the myopathies and their genetic causes in both children and zebrafish. “The fact that the dog model seems to really faithfully recapitulate the clinical disease is really very telling,” he says. “Something that intervenes there would have a very good chance of working in patients.”

“Thanks to genomic comparison, we are understanding finally that dogs and humans are sick in the same way and can be treated the same way,” Tiret says. “Dogs help us and we help them.”

Sibling rivalry: Even the royal dog isn’t immune

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Kate and LupoWith the birth of Prince William and Duchess Kate’s baby expected next month, experts say the pair would be wise to prepare their cocker spaniel, Lupo, for the royal infant’s arrival. The ASPCA’s Victoria Wells recommends all expectant parents do the same. Wells offers several recommendations parents-to-be can implement before a baby arrives, but in the end, owners must follow their intuition and re-home a pet they truly believe to be unsafe around children. NBC News (6/25)

Preparing a “canine kid” for a baby’s arrival might seem a little silly to some people, but it’s serious business according to vets and animal behaviorists. Expectant parents who don’t help their dog adjust before the new bundle appears may run into trouble down the road, when their furry friend acts out and vies for adult attention.

And the most famous royal pup in the world is no exception.

Experts say Duchess Kate, due to have her first child mid-July, should take precautionary measures now to ensure that her little Cocker Spaniel, Lupo, who the couple adopted last winter, and has already made Tatler’s 50 most fascinating “people” list, is all primed for the newest member of the royal family.

Victoria Wells, senior manager of behavior and training at the ASPCA adoption center in New York City, says she sometimes sees pregnant moms bring dogs to shelters before there’s even been a problem because they’re so anxious about their pooch getting along with their newborn.

She firmly believes that parents can take pro-active steps before a baby comes home to ensure that their “fur kid” is ready for the big change— and to calm their own prenatal nerves about everyone coexisting. She advises the Duchess of Cambridge and all other expectant moms this summer: Make sure your four-legged friend knows some basic commands, like “stay’” and “leave it,” so Fido doesn’t jump on the baby and listens when called.

“Go to dog training classes or hire a trainer,” says Wells. She also suggests teaching dogs impulse control before there’s an infant in the house.

Marc Siebert, owner and medical director of The Heart of Chelsea Animal Practice in downtown Manhattan, has seen many couples in his more than 20 years of practice balance new baby and beloved pet— and he breaks it down in canine terms for new parents.

“Most dogs will accept a new baby as part of their ‘pack’ readily,” he explains. But sometimes the dog will “see the new baby more as prey,” which is when you have problems.

So how do you convince your “canine kid” that the baby is part of the pack, royal or otherwise? Let the dog get used to the nursery and the smell of an infant before you walk in that door with the car seat, Siebert says. Encouraging your puppy to explore the new room and smell those blankets and onesies really does help a dog get acquainted with a new baby before the official introduction.

For first time mom Aubrey Bartolo, 29, of Greenwich, Conn., ensuring a smooth transition between her 7-year-old Yorkie, Rufuth, and baby girl Bartolo, born two weeks ago, was a top priority.

“We had our doula bring a blanket and a little hat home each night from the hospital,” Bartolo said, “And she’d wrap [Rufuth] up in the clothes so he was used to her smell when we came home a few days later.”

Bartolo also says she’s been reserving special, one-on-one time in their bed, every night cuddling with her “first kid”— no babies allowed.

Victoria Wells tells parents they can even buy an infant doll and use baby products on it, as well as “rocking it” to sleep in a glider to prepare the dog for what life will be like with a “sibling.”

“The key to all of this is positive reinforcement,” says Wells. “Whenever you’re interacting with the baby or the doll, before the real baby arrives, try to make a positive association for the dog and give him treats.”

Which shouldn’t be a problem at the palace, as the pregnant princess regularly receives treats for her pup from her loyal fans.

In the final analysis, though, it’s crucial to trust your gut, no matter how hard it might be to admit that your baby and pet are incompatible.

Unfortunately, for Stephanie Klein, 37, a blogger and Jericho, New York, mom of 6-year-old twins Lucas and Abigail, obedience classes and behavior therapy didn’t do the trick for her toy fox terrier, Linus. The dog had nipped various people before the twins’ arrival. And despite all the professional help she sought and progress he was making, Klein ultimately made the heartbreaking decision that it was too risky to have the dog around her babies.

Linus now lives happily as an “only child” with Klein’s sister in Florida.

Study: Lymphoma similar in humans and dogs

Friday, June 28th, 2013

A study comparing canine and human B-cell lymphoma found molecular similarities between the cancers, allowing researchers to better understand the origins of the disease in both species. Researchers are optimistic that studies and clinical trials in dogs will yield treatment avenues for humans, too. “Dogs are good models to study, because it will also be possible to study shared risk factors, in the environment, for example, that might predispose both humans and dogs to get lymphoma. Our knowledge helps dogs and humans with lymphoma,” said study author and physician Kristy Richards. ScienceDaily (6/25)

June 25, 2013 — Humans and their pet dogs are close, so close that they both develop a type of cancer called diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. In humans it’s the most common lymphoma subtype while in dogs, it’s one of the most common cancers in veterinary oncology.

A team of scientists from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Duke University have conducted one of the first studies to directly compare canine and human B-cell lymphoma by examining molecular similarities and differences between the two species.

The study was published June 19, 2013 online in the journal Cancer Research.

Kristy Richards, MD, PhD, corresponding author, said, “Comparing the molecular similarities of lymphomas across species has allowed us to see what parts of lymphoma development and growth are evolutionarily conserved. This teaches us more about what components of human lymphoma biology are most fundamental and critical. The canine lymphoma work is now informing research on human lymphomas.” Dr. Richards is an assistant professor of medicine and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Pet dogs get cancer the same way humans do: at similar rates, and for unknown reasons. Like humans, dogs’ tumors are spontaneously occurring, rather than genetically created as they are in mice, so canine tumors may more accurately mimic the situation in human cancer patients. Dogs are good models to study, because it will also be possible to study shared risk factors, in the environment, for example, that might predispose both humans and dogs to get lymphoma. Our knowledge helps dogs and humans with lymphoma.

“Veterinarians treating dogs for lymphoma can offer clinical trials to their owners. Clinical trials in dogs are similar to those done in humans, with safety protections in place to minimize harm.

“What we have learned in our study could facilitate faster, more efficient new drug development, allowing new therapies to get to cancer patients faster and with a higher likelihood of success.”

Molecular analyses of canine and human tumors were completed at NCSU and at UNC Lineberger. The team used gene expression profiling and found that canine B-cell lymphoma expression profiles were similar in many ways to human B-cell lymphoma, thus paving the way for future studies, including therapeutic clinical trials in dogs and humans.

Senior study author is Dr. Steven Suter, associate professor of medical oncology at the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Other authors from NCSU are Alison Motsinger-Reif, Hsiao-wei Chin, Dahlia Nielsen, Rachael Thomas, Chris Smith, Matthew Breen, and Luke Borst. Sandeep Dave from Duke University was an author and other authors from UNC are Yuri Fedoriw, Cheng Fan, George Small and Charles Perou.

The work was supported by a developmental grant from the University Cancer Research Fund.

Service dog helps young man with no limbs succeed

Friday, June 28th, 2013

assistance-dog=helps-man_20130627122543_320_240Brandon Scott was born without most of his four limbs due to a rare disease, but with the help of his service dog, Rona, he recently graduated from college and is planning a career in sports media or public relations. Rona was trained by Canine Companions for Independence and has been by Scott’s side since he applied for a dog as a sixth-grader. WISH-TV (Indianapolis) (6/27)

Updated: Thursday, 27 Jun 2013, 1:42 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 27 Jun 2013, 12:28 PM EDT

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indianapolis resident Brandon Scott has a rare disease, but motivation and a K-9 friend helped him beat the odds.

Brandon was born missing most of his four limbs, Rona the dog acts as his hands. She carries things and picks things up for him.

He applied through Canine Companions for Independence in the sixth grade, so he could get used to working with helper.

When he left for Ball State, his parents were relieved that he had such a reliable partner by his side.

Rona gave him the ability to feel independent and made the transition to college much easier.

Now that Brandon has graduated, he says he wants to be on a sports talk radio show or work with public relations for an Indycar team.

He is even training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Click here to learn more about Canine Companions for Independence.


Treating allergic dogs

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Dog AllergyVeterinarian Jeff Kahler explains that dogs often exhibit skin irritation in response to inhaled allergens, and owners must develop a plan with their veterinarian to get symptoms under control. Testing for most, but not all, allergens often aids in the development of a treatment plan, Dr. Kahler writes. Different therapies including desensitizing injections and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as additional testing for secondary infections, may be part of the plan, but without treatment, Dr. Kahler says, the allergies are likely to get worse. The Sacramento Bee (Calif.)/The Modesto Bee (Calif.) (6/26)

The Modesto Bee

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 – 5:12 am

Bogie licks and chews at his feet to the point that they are now red and swollen. Pauline says her dog has been treated with various antibiotics and corticosteroids, but as the dosage of cortisone pills decreases, the incessant licking increases. Pauline has been told Bogie has allergies, and I would have to agree.

Inhaled allergens in humans commonly cause eye irritation. In dogs, these types of allergies can cause itchy skin. So can contact allergies.

Allergies usually worsen with time as the response to them gets more and more intense, because the immune system is hyper-reacting to something in the environment. Over time, that response becomes more exaggerated.

The self-trauma stemming from the allergic response can exacerbate the inflammation and can lead to bacterial infections or a yeast infection.

Bogie needs to be tested for inhaled allergies specific to his geographic area – California’s Central Valley. This can be done through blood or skin testing. Unfortunately, it is not possible to test for every possible allergen, so a definitive diagnosis may still elude us even with the testing. This, however, is not common.

He needs cultures for bacteria and skin swabs for microscopic examination before a treatment plan can be formulated. Once the results are in from the cultures, treatment can start. I would also start anti-inflammatory treatment to try and bring Bogie some much-needed relief. The medications used for these therapies will be determined by his veterinarian.

When the allergy testing results are in, the next step is to determine if allergy injections are necessary. This therapy can usually be done at home and can have excellent results in desensitizing Bogie to whatever is causing the irritation. Not all patients respond well to desensitization, and these patients will likely have to be medicated when the symptoms warrant.

There are other possible allergic conditions that might be causing Bogie’s condition. He may need to have a diet assessment, for example, to determine if a diet allergy is suspected.

Obviously, cases like Bogie’s are complex and there is no single therapy. One thing is certain: Bogie is miserable and needs to visit his veterinarian for a treatment that results in relief.

(Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.)

Study: Cats may not be as aloof as they seem

Friday, June 28th, 2013

man with catDespite the common belief that some cats are indifferent to their human caretakers, new research indicates cats are more likely to respond to their owner’s voice than a stranger’s. However, the response is, in typical cat fashion, subtle: ear or head movement or pupil dilation. The study contributes insights into cats’ cognition and shows how their natural tendency to mask their responses to stimuli translates into the home environment. Discovery (6/25)

Cats may try to hide their true feelings, but a recent study found that cats do actually pay attention to their owners, distinguishing them from all other people.

The study, which will be published in the July issue of Animal Cognition, is one of the few to examine the cat/human social dynamic from the feline’s perspective. Cats may not do what we tell them to, but they usually adore their human caretakers.

Co-author Atsuko Saito of The University of Tokyo explained to Discovery News that dogs have evolved, and are bred, “to follow their owner’s orders, but cats have not been. So sometimes cats appear aloof, but they have special relationships with their owners.”

“Previous studies suggest that cats have evolved to behave like kittens (around their owners), and humans treat cats similar to the way that they treat babies,” co-author Kazutaka Shinozuka of the University of South Florida College of Medicine added. “To form such baby-parent like relationships, recognition of owners might be important for cats.”

Their study, mostly conducted in the homes of cats so as not to unduly upset or worry the felines, determined just that.

The researchers played recordings of strangers, as well as of the cats’ owners, to the felines. The cats could not see the speakers.

The cats responded to human voices, not by communicative behavior- such as by vocalizing or moving their tails — but by orienting behavior. In this case, “orienting” meant that the cats moved their ears and heads toward the source of each voice.

The felines also, at times, displayed pupil dilation, which can be a sign of powerful emotions, such as arousal and excitement. Other studies have found that natural pupil dilation can be directly tied to brain activity, revealing mental reactions to emotional stimuli.

All of these reactions happened more often when cats heard their owners, and particularly after they had become habituated to, or familiar with, the strangers’ voices.

The feline reactions are therefore very subtle, but cats have evolved not to be very demonstrative.

Cats, for example, hide illness because “in the wild, no one can rescue them and predators pay attention to such weak individuals,” Saito said. Even though a watchful owner would try to save the cat, the feline’s gut reaction is to remain stoic and avoid any possible threat at a time of vulnerability.

Felines may be hard to read sometimes, but not always. Saito said some of the cats during the study and elsewhere have “fawned over me eagerly,” purring and displaying affection familiar to many other feline fanciers.

The researchers point out that, after 10,000 years of cohabitating with humans, domestic cats have the ability to communicate with us, and we seem to understand them, for the most part.

Humans who have never owned or been around cats much can pick up basic feline emotions solely by the sound of certain purrs and meows, Saito said. In studies, such people can classify the cat vocalizations according to particular situations.

Kazuo Fujita is a researcher in the Department of Psychology at Kyoto University who has also studied cats.

Fujita told Discovery News that “this is an important study” on how cats think, “which has remained mysterious due to difficulties in testing them.”

Dogs’ attachment to owners mimics infant-caregiver bonding

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Susannah and LaceyDogs and their owners may develop a “secure base effect,” a type of bond documented between human infants and their caregivers. Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, studied the reactions of dogs in the presence and absence of owners and strangers. (6/23)

Just like humans, it’s important for animals to develop relationships with their own kind. However, when it comes to domesticated animals, relationships can go in a different direction. Researchers have found that pet owners oftentimes develop strong bonds with their pets similar to that of a parent and their infant child.

This bond is known as the “secure base effect.” It’s normally a bond found in infant children as they try to understand the world around them. Children often gravitate towards their caregiver, using them as a base for interacting with their environment. The effect influences their daily lives and can also affect their performance in cognitive testing.

According to a new study, dogs become attached to their caregivers in much the same way that a child using the secure base effect. Researchers at Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, performed two experiments on dogs’ behavior.

In the first experiment, they tested 20 dogs’ reactions during three different settings: having an absent owner, a silent owner with a blindfold on, and an encouraging owner. The dogs had to manipulate toys in order to get a treat inside. The researchers found that it was only the owner’s presence that affected how the dog reacted. If the owner wasn’t in the room, the dogs spent less time trying to retrieve the treat from inside the toys. They also tested for separation anxiety in two pre-experiment absence tests — they found that separation anxiety had no effect on the dogs’ performance in the experiments.

“In this case, dogs that experienced strong separation distress would have been expected to manipulate shorter than dogs that were not distressed by the owners absence,” the authors wrote. “However, since the dogs’ duration of manipulation was not negatively correlated with their individual separation-related behavior score, we showed that the owners absence did not affect the dogs differently.”

Because of this, they concluded that the only reason the dogs didn’t spend as much time with the toys was because the owner wasn’t there as a secure base.

Following up on this experiment, the researchers then tested whether the dogs would compete the tasks when their owner was replaced with a stranger. The dogs showed no interest in the strangers, and, furthermore, didn’t show much interest in the food when the stranger was there or not.

“The fact that the presence of an unfamiliar human did not significantly increase the duration of manipulation in the dogs compared to when they were alone with the experimenter provides evidence for a secure base effect in dogs that’s specific for the owner, and therefore, comparable to the one found in infant-caregiver relationships,” they wrote.

This study provides the first evidence comparing the similarities of the secure base effect between dog-owner and child-caregiver. In a 2003 study based on the Ainsworth “Strange Situation” Assessment, 38 dogs and their owners were put into an unfamiliar room and introduced to a stranger. The dogs were subjected to four periods of separation in which the owners would leave and then come back. The stranger also left during one period, leaving the dogs completely alone.

The researchers found evidence pointing to a secure base effect from the beginning, when the dogs were more inclined to play with the stranger while the owner was present. However, there was more evidence pointing to attachment, because the dogs would scratch, jump at the door, or stare at the door or the owner’s chair when they weren’t present. They were also much more enthusiastic, and greeted their owners for a longer duration after the separation, than they did for the strangers. Finally, when the dogs were left completely alone, they were more inclined to make contact with their owner’s clothing and sat closer to their chair, rather than the stranger’s.

Having this relationship could contribute to the reasons why the American Heart Association (AHA) said pets can reduce the risk of heart disease.

“Pet ownership is an important nonhuman form of social support and may provide cardioprotective benefits in patients with established cardiovascular disease,” a statement said.

The AHA said that studies have shown having a pet can increase physical activity, boost favorable lipid profiles, lower systemic blood pressure, improve autonomic tone, diminish sympathetic responses to stress, and improve survival after acute coronary syndrome.


Horn L, Huber L, Range F. The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs — Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task. PLOS One. 2013.

Prato-Previde E, Custance D, Spiezio C, et al. Is the Dog-Human Relationship an Attachment Bond? An Observational Study Using Ainsworth’s Strange Situation. Behaviour. 2003.

Experts share tips for keeping pets cool in summer heat

Friday, June 28th, 2013

EnglishBulldogSonnyPuppy9Weeks2Summer means taking extra care to keep pets from overheating, an especially dangerous situation for brachycephalic breeds including pugs, bulldogs and others with short snouts or flat faces, experts advise. Other tips: Don’t leave pets in parked cars, where temperatures quickly soar to life-threatening levels; make sure animals have plenty of shade and cool water when outdoors; and walk pets early or late in the day to avoid the heat of the full sun. U.S. News & World Report (6/19)

No one ever told Linda Pegram not to leave her dogs in the car.

On a mid-80s day in April, Pegram cracked the windows for her 7-year-old Cocker Spaniel and 5-year-old Cockapoo as she shopped at a Walmart in Chester, Va. About an hour later, a passerby called police, who arrived to find the dogs dead inside the vehicle. Pegram, who was charged with two felony counts of animal cruelty, told local media outlets that she’s devastated and didn’t intentionally kill her animals.

It’s a grim reminder that, as the weather gets warmer, we need to pay extra attention to our pets. And keeping them inside vehicles on hot days isn’t the only health risk. U.S. News turned to veterinary experts who shared advice on how to keep our four-legged friends safe and healthy this summer:

Be careful with high-risk dogs. Animals cool by panting, and those that can’t breathe particularly well have the highest risk for health problems during the summer. This includes brachycephalic dogs, or those that have a short snout or are flat-faced – like bulldogs and pugs. Pay special attention to seniors and overweight pets, too. If your pet ever breathes in and out in a noisy way, he may have some trouble with airflow, which in turn means he may have a harder time cooling off.

[Read: How to Lose Weight With Your Pet.]

Don’t keep your pets in parked cars. Research from San Francisco State University suggests that in 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car rises by 19 degrees. Make it 20 minutes, and the temperature spikes by 29 degrees; 30 minutes and it goes up 34 degrees; and after an hour, the temperature soars by 43 degrees. Dogs and cats have a baseline body temperature of 100 to 102 degrees, and their organs begin to shut down at 106 degrees. “Very quickly, you can literally be threatening your animal’s life,” says Cathy Unruh, an animal welfare advocate based in Tampa Bay, Fla. She cautions that you should never put your pet inside a car that’s been parked outside in the blistering sun – the seats could be so hot that they burn your animal. Make sure the car is cooled down ahead of time.

Provide shade and water. Seems like a no-brainer, right? You’d be surprised, experts say. Always make sure your pets have ample shade and water when they’re outside. Kiddie pools and sprinklers are a smart idea, too, says Jessica Almeida, transfer director at the Humane Society of Utah. “A lot of the time, they’ll just go lie down in the kiddie pool and get their bellies wet,” she says. But never spray your dog down with a hose: Chances are, it’s been lying in the sun, and the water inside is scorching hot – enough so to seriously burn your pet.

[Read: Pet Health: Dangerous Foods for Dogs and Cats.]

Beware of heatstroke. It’s more common in dogs than cats and often arises when exercising in hot weather. Louise Murray, vice president of Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York, suggests taking your dog out early in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun isn’t so high in the sky. Try to keep animals indoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is typically the hottest part of the day. Symptoms of heatstroke include increased heart rate, excessive panting, increased salivation, a bright red tongue, red or pale gums, vomiting and diarrhea. “Just think – our pets are furrier than us, and they don’t process heat as well as we do,” Almeida says. “So if it’s too hot for you to be hanging outside, it’s probably too hot for your dog.”

Apply sunscreen. You’re not the only one who can get sunburned: Your pets can, too. Dogs are most likely to get sunburned on the bridge of their nose, in the groin area, on the tips of the ears and on their bellies, and animals with a thin coat are at particularly high risk. Invest in sunscreen that’s specifically designed for pets. Don’t share your own because some common ingredients, like zinc oxide, are toxic to animals, Murray says.

Parvovirus: Easily acquired, easily prevented

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Dozens of dogs in the Massachusetts counties of Berkshire and Worcester have been diagnosed with parvovirus, and a number have died. All the affected animals had never received or were behind on vaccines, officials said. There’s no cure for parvo, and staying current on vaccines is the best way to prevent the illness, says North Adams, Mass., veterinarian Rebecca Mattson. Parvo is spread by ingesting fecal material, and it is easily picked up, Dr. Mattson says, noting dogs may ingest the pathogen simply by cleaning their feet after walking on contaminated pavement. North Adams Transcript (Mass.) (6/19)

Rebecca Mattson, a veterinarian at Greylock Animal Hospital in North Adams, said the practice has seen two dogs affected by outbreak of Canine Parvovirus.

“There’s no treatment, there’s no cure,” she said. “There’s only supportive care and prevention.”

On Friday, the state Department of Agricultural Resources’ Division of Animal Health announced that dozens of dogs in Berkshire and Worcester counties have been affected by the virus, and several have died or had to be euthanized due to severe illness. According to the release, all of the dogs effected by the outbreak had never been vaccinated or were behind on their shots.

“In general, Parvo tends to be a puppy virus,” Mattson said. “But with this particular strain, they have seen it in a couple of adult dogs who were behind on their vaccines.”

A dog infected with Parvovirus will show gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite, Mattson said. A major reason Parvovirus is so devastating, she explained, is that it attacks rapidly dividing cells in the body.

“That includes the lining of the intestine, certain parts of the developing brain, and bone marrow,” she said. “It can also suppress the immune system, which it why it can be so fatal.”

The virus


is spread by the ingestion of fecal material, which Mattson said isn’t as hard as people realize — dogs clean their feet by licking them, she said, and can easily ingest contaminated material.

In addition, the virus, which is spread dog-to-dog, is resilient, she said.

“You have to bleach it or use specific cleaners,” she said. “One of the outbreak areas is next to the [Ashuwillticook] Rail Train. Pavement is not automatically safe unless it’s been bleached.”

The best way to protect their pets is through vaccination, Mattson said. In addition, a test is available to see if a dog is carrying the virus, she said.

Puppies can begin receiving the three shots needed as early as six to eight weeks, Mattson said. Adult dogs should get a booster shot annually, she said. Those with young dogs who are in the process of being vaccinated should avoid high-dog traffic areas, she added.

Lindsay Cermak, a veterinarian at North County Veterinary Hospital, said the practice hasn’t seen any dogs affected yet.

“If your dog is acting sick in any way, you should see your vet as soon as possible,” she said.

Cermak said her practice is planning on being more vigilant in testing for Parvovirus, including in older dogs.

“If anyone is worried, don’t hesitate to have them tested. The sooner you start treatment, the better they do,” she said.

To reach Edward Damon, email