Dogs Really are Man’s Best Friend

I just discovered a marvelous article on canine genomics, its applications critical to both veterinary and human medicine.

In 2003, the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) agreed to fund a project to sequence the entire genome of a boxer dog named Tasha. Although the USA is a country of dog lovers, with approximately 38 million households owning one or more dogs, why did one of the National Institutes of Health countenance the use of $30m for such a purpose? The answer is that the NHGRI recognised the value of the dog as an unrivaled model for the study of human disease. In this paper, the reasons why the dog is such a good model are examined. Examples of where the study of disease in dogs is increasing the understanding of the genetic basis of human disease, of the development of improved diagnostic assays and of the evaluation of clinical therapies are provided.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Learn more about Comparative Canine Oncology here.

Dispelling Myths of Canine Cancer & Its Treatment

I came across a great article by Colorado State University’s Douglas Thamm, VMD, DACVIM.

There is still a great stigma attached to a diagnosis of cancer, and it is natural for owners of dogs with cancer to equate cancer treatment in animals with experiences they may have had with treatment of themselves, their friends or family members. Having an understanding of how cancer treatment in animals and humans differs can insure that dog owners make an informed decision when selecting treatment for their dog with cancer.

Read more here. And, learn more about canine cancer here.

Bisphosphonates: When Amputation isn’t an Option for Osteosarcoma

This is Deb Walz’s Golden Retriever Selka, or more formally, Sandhill’s Goldust Selka. A lover of the sport no matter what the season, he also enjoys dumping snow from his Frisbee onto his head! Now, that is what we call one thinking Golden! According to Deb, Selka is a joy to everyone who knows him and spends his time retrieving, working as a therapy dog or laying in Mom’s lap. Selka has greeted folks for years at our foundation’s page on the sport of Canine Frisbee.

So, we were especially sad to receive this news today from Deb:

Rochelle, I wanted to share the sad news that our beloved golden Selka has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Amputation was not a good choice as he has some neuropathy in his hind legs and probably could not walk on three legs. We are doing the best we can, loving him as we always do and spoiling him until the time comes to say goodbye. We do not want him to suffer at all. You will remember the photo of him in the winter with his red frisbee that you used in one of your sections here.

Tripawds has a great article on the new options for patients like Selka.

More recently, there is a promising new option for non-amputation candidates: bisphosphonates. You’ve probably heard of them: Fosamax and Boniva are two. This class of drugs is used in human patients with osteoperosis, or those with prostate or breast cancer that has metastasized to bone.

Now, many veterinary oncologists are using bisphosphonates for canine patients, to build and stabilize bone, and effectively manage pain. In some cases, bisphosphonates can also be used for dogs with osteosarcoma metastasis to bony areas such as the spine or skull.

Typically, non-amputee dogs being treated for osteosarcoma are given the bisphosphonate drug Pamidronate. This drug is given as a two hour IV injection every four weeks. Pamidronate may also be given in conjunction with radiation therapy for pain control.

At the Veterinary Cancer Center (VCC), dogs have the most powerful bisphosphonate available; Zoledronate. For the last year, the VCC team has conducted a Zoledronate clinical trial on dogs with bone cancer, and so far, the results are promising.

I actually know of a canine patient who has been on Pamidronate for almost a year and is now able to run and play like old times, before being diagnosed. I do not have detailed information regarding the Zoledronate clinical trial which is being conducted at the Veterinary Cancer Center in Santa Fe, NM, but contact information is available here.

Love your dog, love the earth

Sixty-three percent of Americans own at least one companion animal, and sadly, most are virtually unprotected from toxic chemicals. A recent study published in April 2008 showed that  dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people. You can avoid chemicals leaching into water by not using plastic bottles. We only use stainless steel BPA FREE water bottles now for our dog walks.

In a Harvard School of Public Health study published in May 2009, BPA, the chemical used to make plastics, was found to leach from polycarbonate drinking bottles Into humans. In fact, drinking cold liquids from polycarbonate bottles for just one week increased urinary BPA levels by more than two-thirds. Exposure to BPA, used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics, has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans.

Plastic Water Bottles May Pose Health Hazard plastic2
By Emily Sohn, Discovery News

April 28, 2009 — With all of the bad press swirling around certain types of plastic lately, regular old plastic water bottles have maintained a reputation as safe, at least as far as human health is concerned. New evidence, however, suggests that plastic water bottles may not be so benign after all.Scientists in Germany have found that PET plastics — the kind used to make water bottles, among many other common products — may also harbor hormone-disrupting chemicals that leach into the water.It’s too soon to say whether drinking out of PET plastic bottles is harmful to human health, said lead researcher Martin Wagner, an ecotoxicologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt. But it now appears possible that some as-yet unidentified chemicals in these plastics have the potential to interfere with estrogen and other reproductive hormones, just as the infamous plasticizers BPA and phthalates do.

“What we found was really surprising to us,” Wagner said. “If you drink water from plastic bottles, you have a high probability of drinking estrogenic compounds.”

The study adds to growing concerns about products that span the plastic spectrum, added Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York. “This is coming at a good time because the use of bottles for consuming water is getting very bad press now because of its carbon footprint,” she said. “It’s just another nail in the coffin of bottled water, the way I see it.”

Wagner and a colleague used genetically engineered yeast to analyze 20 samples of mineral water. Nine samples came our of glass bottles. Nine were bottled in PET plastic. And two were in cardboard, juice-like boxes. The specialized yeast — which change color in the presence of estrogen-like compounds — revealed estrogenic activity in seven of the nine plastic bottles (and both cardboard samples), compared with just three of the nine glass ones. Overall, Wagner said, levels of these compounds in the water were surprisingly high.

German mineral water comes from natural springs. So, to see if the estrogenic compounds were actually coming from the water itself, Wagner emptied the bottles and replaced the water with a pure snail medium and a tiny species of snail that is especially sensitive to estrogenic compounds. Eight weeks later, female snails living in plastic bottles had more than twice as many embryos inside their bodies compared to the glass-grown snails. “Something from the plastic,” Wagner said, “must have leached out and changed the reproductive patterns of our snails.”

Wagner cautions against jumping to conclusions. Water is still a healthy beverage, he said. And until the compounds at work in the snail study have been identified, it’s just not possible to know if PET plastics pose a human health risk. Still, tests in his lab have shown far less estrogenic activity in tap water than in even the most “ultra-pure” bottled waters.

“Having done all of these experiments, I started drinking tap water,” Wagner told Discovery News. “It might have other stuff in it, but at least it doesn’t have estrogenic compounds.” It may also be time, Swan said, to reconsider how safe the so-called “safe” plastics really are.

“I used to say: ‘4, 5, 1, and 2. All the rest are bad for you,'” she said, referring to the recycling codes on plastic products. “Now, I’m not saying that anymore. We don’t know about 4, 5, 1, or 2. This raises questions about all plastic bottles.

H2O4K9 25-oz. Stainless Steel Dog Bottle & Bowl
H2O4K9 is a new 2009 team of creative professionals (all with canine companions) with backgrounds in industrial design, marketing, art and business. They have developed the  the first stainless steel water bottle for dogs, so unique due to its lid, which was designed specifically to fit a dog’s natural drinking style.

  • No more searching for water.
  • No more “disposable” plastic water bottles.
  • No more drinking from your hands.
  • No worries about BPA, phthalates, or other harmful chemicals.

Learn more about this great new product at http://bit.ly/dog-water.

Training Service Dog 1 & 2-way Sound Alerts

I am just in love with the videos and work being done by the Vancouver Island Assistance Dogs, Nanaimo, British Columbia. They are a group of volunteers who are helping people on Vancouver Island to overcome or mitigate the difficulties of living with disabling conditions (no matter the degree of severity) by assisting them to train their own mobility assistance dog, hearing dog and/or other service dog at no cost to them. Besides doing in-home training for individuals in the Nanaimo area, they offer email, their great blog, and also video support for those in other regions.

The video below from Donna Hill details Training a One Way Alert to Service Dogs (Hearing and Medical Alert Dogs). It is simply fabulous. We don’t have hearing difficulties but can see how teaching this behavior could be a life-saving one. The way the task is broken down is excellent, and just wonderful for those folks who are training their own hearing dog. The video helps folks to train a service dog to alert you to sounds (hearing alerts) and do diabetic and other medical alerts.

Note the star (*) indicates when the clicker marks the behavior. Also, realize that barking is not a behavior that is desirable for an alert behavior for assistance dogs. In public is is disruptive and is only used for emergencies to call attention to a person that needs help. That is why a silent alert is much more effective.

Remember, the same process shown in the video can be used to train for:

  • Person calling your name
  • Wake up alarm
  • Fire alarm
  • Smoke Detector
  • Horn honking
  • Car or truck backing up
  • Low blood sugar levels (diabetic alert)

This next video details a two way alert

Donna provides the following variations on these training methods:

To train other sounds to alert to, substitute the desired sound for the alarm clock example used in the video. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, try to find a sound that can be attached to a flashing light so you have an indication of when to click and reward your dog for an indication.

To Train a Diabetic or low (or high) blood sugar alert, use a sample of your blood or sweat collected when your blood levels are low (or high) and substitute for the treat under the container. You will definitely need to train your dog to be persistent if you are sleeping or starting to go into diabetic shock. Choose a blood sugar level where you can still function and think so it’s not dangerously low.

To Train an Alzheimer’s alert, use the sound of the patient’s chair as he gets out of it to alert the caregiver he is on the move. You may need to attach a piece of metal or wood so the end of the chair hits the floor with a louder sound.

Learn more about hearing dogs here and our listing of general service dog resources here.

And, be sure to check out our Nationwide Assistance Dog Group & Training Listing here.

Softening the loss . . . . .

I recently discovered innovator, Patricia Moore’s, Soft-Hearted Products, a wonderful company that provides a way to soften pet loss by offering something that could be held close. Few things linger in our minds like the loss of a companion animal. Now, you can wrap your arms around a Soft-Hearted Pillow and hug the memories.

While this option may not be for everybody, it definitely is is a supple, huggable way to capture the love and tenderness that pet parents feel for their animal companions in a secure, yet soft, embraceable warm alternative.

Each year over 44 million pets are cremated with remains returned to bereaved owners in generic tin containers. “Now with my Soft-Hearted Pillow when someone suffers the loss of their pet, they’ll have the comfort of something soft to hold and keep close-by,” says Pati Moore.

Learn more at http://bit.ly/softenloss.

Polluted Pets (and people) …. need I say more?

I have a great informational page on polluted pets at my foundation’s site. It’s been there for years and has lots of information that can be downloaded and utilized.

Please do read this powerful article: Polluted Pets: High Levels of Toxic Industrial Chemicals Contaminate Cats And Dogs. For me, this is old news. But, for many, it continues to be foreign information.

And, we’ve talked about this issue for years at the site: Nutritional value of fruits, veggies is dwindling: Chemicals that speed growth may impair ability to absorb soil’s nutrients. Another incredible article to read and understand with respect to implications for both you and your furry ones.

Please get serious now. Prevention is what it is all about. Waiting until an illness process takes hold just results in needless pain and suffering. Being proactive about your family’s health is the best way to fight back and possible win the battle.