Dogs are increasingly being trained to detect unusual things. The latest job is detecting the very difficult to find, Hermit beetle and its larva which live for up to three years hidden in places such as hollow trees in wooded areas.
The use of dogs was the brainchild of Dr. Fabio Mosconi of the Italian Agricultural Research Council and Spienza University of Rome. They have successfully trained Teseo, a Golden Retriever, to detect the endangered beetle.
Beetle detection is another job to add to the growing list of things dogs have and are being used to detect. Besides finding the commonly known things, such as drugs, bombs, humans, and agricultural items at airports, dogs have been used to find such items as Wolf scat, Bird nests, toxic mold, old money, lost pets, and gold ore just to name a few. Dogs are also able to alert people to oncoming seizures, low blood sugar and cancer.
Although scientists are still trying to develop a machine that can equal the scenting capabilities of dogs, they have yet to succeed. Dogs are truly man’s best friend performing so many jobs other than detection work.
Recently I had to rush my Parsons Russell Terrier to the Veterinarian ER. He had vomited the night before and seemed out of sorts a little bit, but not unusual for a 10+ year old dog. The only thing different that night was that he did not play his “Ha Ha I can catch you but you cannot catch me” game with Babs our Border Collie. This is a nightly ritual around the living room furniture.
When my husband got up the next morning, Riley had had diarrhea and was listless. This was 5:30 a.m. Larry immediately woke me up and when I looked at Riley I knew he was very sick. We immediately took him to the Veterinary ER.
We spent the morning at the ER and then took him to my regular veterinarian when they opened. The diagnosis was Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, (HGE). Because I had caught the disease before it had progressed and got Riley to the veterinarian right away, he was able to come home that afternoon. By the next day he seemed like his old self but still had a few days of medications and a bland diet left to go.
HGE is a disease that causes sudden vomiting and bloody diarrhea. The symptoms are severe and can be fatal if the dog is not treated right away. The progression of the disease is so fast that a dog can die within 24 hours.
Although it is common in young adult dogs (Riley had it when he was one to two years old) it can show up in older dogs as I found out. It is most common in small breeds but it can affect any dog of any size.
What is important to know is that the disorder occurs very suddenly and without warning. The main symptoms are vomiting and bloody diarrhea which is often bright red, like fresh blood. Some dogs have painful abdomens, they will not eat, can have a high fever and are listless. In Riley’s case his temperature dropped to 98°F.
The exact cause of HGE is unknown but some suspected causes are:
Eating non-food items
Eating different foods that the dog is not used to
Stress (note that stress can be good stress such as excitement about playing, as well as bad)
Allergic reaction to food or airborne substances
Intestinal parasites and bacteria
Riley had a battery of tests and X-rays to rule out other causes of his symptoms. Some of the tests that a veterinarian may use could include a CBC, analysis of the blood, urinalysis, X-rays, clotting tests, fecal test, ultrasound or gastrointestinal tract exam.
Treatment must include IV fluids, antibiotics, and in some cases gastrointestinal protectants, anti-vomiting medications and perhaps plasma or colloids. The most critical treatment are IV fluids which must be given right away. If not, the dog will most likely die.
Since there is not clear trigger for HGE, it is hard to prevent it. What I learned is that while a younger dog can tolerate some of the causes, an older dog may not. That means that an owner with an older dog must be more careful. One of the things that my veterinarian stressed is to only feed a high-quality dog food, which I do. Dog foods that are available in the supermarket or discount stores are not high quality. I personally like Annamaet and Wysong foods. Even if you feed your dog a high-quality food, you must also be careful with the treats you give your dog. Poor quality treats may trigger HGE as well. Another important preventative measure is to be sure to give your dog regular heartworm medication as well as tick and flea prevention.
Always keep the phone number and address of your emergency veterinarian clinic handy as well as your regular veterinarian. Some emergency clinics are only open at night and weekends instead of 24 hours. A dog who is being treated for HGE must stay at a clinic under supervision until they are well enough to come home. The total treatment can be costly, Riley’s bill came to over $1000 for both clinics combined. If your dog is young, it might be a good idea to get pet health insurance, many plans are reasonably priced. This is a very good idea if you have a working dog who is more likely to be injured or get sick.
Some people may see the early signs of HGE and feel that the dog will get better in a day or so. What I hope my readers learn from this article is that you cannot wait. It is much better to be safe then have your dog die. The longer the dog suffers from HGE the less likely they will survive due to complications that HGE causes.
The swine virus, H3N2 has been found in pigs and people. It seems that it was first passed from humans to pigs and now it is being passed back to humans. Research led by Andrew Bowman of the Ohio State University and published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases which is a publication for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outlines Bowman’s findings.
The study was conducted on pigs that were exhibited at fairs, and of the ones tested, 78% had the virus even though many showed no symptoms. The fair exhibitors where the most likely to contract the virus since they handle and spend more time with their pigs.
Part of the research showed how quickly the virus can travel. Bowman suggested a number of precautions to take to avoid getting the virus. These included testing pigs, limiting the amount of time the pigs are exhibited, sanitation procedures for humans and pigs and vaccinating the pigs against the virus, just to name a few.
He also suggested that visitors who are at risk of catching the flu, such as babies, young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems avoid going in the pig exhibition area.
Although Lafora disease only affects about 50 children worldwide, it is a deadly form of epilepsy that is common in Wirehaired Dachshunds.
(photo is not a Wirehaired Dachshund but it is cute!)
Many Wirehaired Dachshunds suffer from Lafora, and because the disease is the same in children as it is in dogs, veterinarians and human neurologists have teamed up to study the disease.
Dr. Clare Rusbridge, Reader in Veterinary Neurology at the University of Surrey and Chief Neurologist at Fitzpatrick Referrals, have been working with specialists of Lafora in children at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and have identified a canine gene mutation that causes Lafora in dogs.
They were able to study the progression of the disease in dogs so that they could identify its early stages in children. By understanding the progression of the disease, scientists will be better able to identify it sooner in children and eventually find a cure.
The plus side of these studies is that over the past five years, with the help of the Wirehaired Dachshund Club and Dachshund Breed Council, breeders have tested breeding stock and as a result, have reduced the number of litters that are at risk of having Lafora from 55% to under 5%. Hopefully the continued research will benefit humans as well.
Studies have been done about “tough love” moms and children and how letting children face minor adversities gives them the ability to cope better when they are adults. But now for the first time a study has been done to determine if the same applies to dogs.
Emily Bray, a postdoctoral researcher in the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology studied litters of puppies at the Seeing Eye, the guide dog organization in Morristown, New Jersey, and published her report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What she found is very interesting. After tracking the litters into adulthood, they found that the puppies with mothers who were more attentive were more likely to fail as guide dogs for the visually impaired.
Bray did stress that although her study highlights the connection between a mother’s behavior and puppies, she feels that more research is needed to see if genetics plays a part in the results of her study. It never ceases to amaze me how similar dog behavior is to human behavior in many ways.
In a recent study by Fabian Leendertz a veterinarian scientist at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the University of Glasgow, and the Ivorian National Animal Health Institute, found that the chimpanzee population is facing extinction from Anthrax. This is unusual since the disease is typically not found in tropical rain forests, but it has been discovered in the Ivory Coast’s Taï National Park.
Photo Credit: MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/ L. Samuni
Anthrax is a spore-forming bacterium, and is more common in the arid regions of Africa which can kill both people and animals. However, in 2004 Leendertz and his team discovered an unknown type of anthrax in dead chimpanzees. Since then they have found the new strain of anthrax (Bacillus cereus biovar anthracis) in other animals such as gorillas and elephants, several monkey species, duikers, mongoose, and a porcupine. They found that 40% of the animal deaths in the Taï National Park were due to anthrax.
While humans have not suffered from this strain of anthrax, there is concern since it is closely related to the strain that does infect humans. Researchers are working together to solve the mystery of the latest anthrax threat to animals and possibly humans. Hopefully they will find a way to contain it and stop the spread of it.
Short nosed or Brachycephalic dogs such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) which can cause health problems, breathing difficulties and even death. Veterinarians have conducted research to try to determine if there is a way to predict which dogs will suffer from BOAS, (almost half the dogs in these breeds are affected). By determining which dogs will have BOAS, breeders can try to eradicate it from the breeds that suffer from it.
This photo shows a dog with closed nostrils making it difficult to breathe
In 2015 researchers at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London determined that dogs whose muzzles were less than half of their cranial length and dogs with thicker necks were more likely to have BOAS. However, they did not feel that this was a reliable way for breeders to select dogs for breeding.
More recently a new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge tried to compare neck girth with chest girth and muzzle length to see if that could predict BOAS. However, they found that it was not easy to measure dogs and it was not reliable. They did suggest that breeders should not use dog with very short muzzles, wide faces and thick necks for breeding.
Dr. Nai-Chieh Liu one of the researchers suggested that breeding for open nostrils is most likely the best and easiest way to improve these breeds. Researchers are going to try to find a genetic marker for BOAS to help improve Brachycephalic dogs to improve breeding programs.
People who own one of these breeds should have their dogs checked yearly for difficulty breathing even if the dog appears to be OK.
According to the latest research in the UK, GSD’s are most likely to die from complications due to musculosketetal disorders. Almost a half a million GSD’s were studied by the VetCompass™ Programme at the Royal Veterinary College.
The dogs surveyed came from 430 veterinary clinics. They found a total of 263 disorders, the most common were, inflammation of the ear canal (7.89% of dogs), osteoarthritis (5.54%), diarrhea (5.24%), overweight and obesity (5.18%), and aggression (4.76%).
According to Dr. Dan O’Neill, from the Royal Veterinary College, GSD’s have the second highest number of health disorders, with Great Danes being the first. According to the report, GSD’s suffer from an abnormal formation of the hip joint, cancer, and degenerative spinal disorders which he feels is a result of breeding for cosmetic features such as a sloping back and lower hindquarters.
This is the first study, which included 17 different breeds, whose goal is to help breeders improve the health of their dogs.
It would be interesting to see how the study compares with the health of GSD’s in other countries.
In a recent study at Oregon State University by Haley Leeper, a veterinary oncology resident at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine as well as Craig Ruaux and Shay Bracha, colleagues of Leeper in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and Austin Viall of the Department of Veterinary Pathology at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine showed that higher cholesterol seemed to help dogs survive bone cancer longer.
They found that dogs with the malignant tumor, osteosarcoma, which is also diagnosed in humans, typically afflicting teenagers and young adults, that had high serum cholesterol lived on the average of 200 days longer than dogs who did not have high cholesterol.
Researchers plan to study why the high cholesterol helped dogs survive longer and perhaps learn ways to cure this type of cancer in dogs and humans alike.
I personally hope they come up with a cure for bone cancer, I lost my beloved Rottweiler to bone cancer many years ago.