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The Ruff Report: A roundup of news about dogs Oct. 19 to 25, 2008

Oct. 19 to 25, 2008

Man and dog share special medical bond, too

Man and dog have always had a unique bond, and now those ties are getting even closer as researchers prepare to study genetic mutations that lead to diseases that canine and humans share.

Delegates at the European Science Foundation's 3rd Functional Genomics Conference held recently in Austria were told many diseases may share the same genetic basis in humans and dogs, Science Daily reports.

"Dogs get very similar diseases to humans," said Kerstin Lindblad-Toh of Uppsala University in Sweden and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "If you ask a dog owner what sort of conditions their pets get, they will say cancer, allergies, eye diseases."

Dogs have been bred into clear isolated populations - the different breeds - so detecting a genetic flaw that leads to a disease is often easier than it is in humans, Lindblad-Toh told the conference. Once a rogue gene has been found in the dog, it could make it easier look for mutations in the same gene in man.

"For example, we have found a genetic mutation that results in a condition called day blindness that can affect dachshunds," Lindblad-Toh said.

A similar condition can arise in humans, and analysis of the mutated protein in the dog is providing new information about the disease in man. Researchers are also looking at genes associated with cancer of the blood vessels to which golden retrievers are prone.

LUPA, a new European consortium, consists of 20 veterinary schools from 12 countries spread across Europe that will work together to collect 10,000 DNA samples from purebred dogs. It will compare healthy animals with those affected by similar diseases as human. Researchers will analyze the genome of affected dogs compared to healthy ones of the same breed and pinpoint genetic markers for dog diseases. This will help to reduce the high level of inherited disease in purebred dogs.

By identifying these genes, researchers will gain understanding into the mechanisms and pathways of the disease. They hope to apply the knowledge they gain to fighting the same diseases that afflict humans.

Tips to keep pets safe during Halloween

Pet parents are being warned about the potential dangers that the Halloween season can pose to pets.

"Many of our favorite Halloween traditions could pose a potential threat to our companion animals," Steven Hansen, a veterinary toxicologist and official at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, stated in a press release. "So as you start to make plans for trick-or-treating or Halloween costumes, pet parents should be aware of Halloween-related products and activities that can be potentially dangerous to pets."

According to the ASPCA, some Halloween hazards include:

  • Sweets. Several treats are toxic to pets. Candy containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. Chocolate, especially baker’s and dark chocolate, can be potentially poisonous to animals, especially dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate and even seizures.
  • Wrappers. Cats especially love to play with candy wrappers, but ingesting aluminum foil or cellophane can cause intestinal blockage and induce vomiting.
  • Trick-or-treating. During trick-or-treating hours, keep pets in a room away from your front door to avoid having them run out. Pets should wear a collar with tags and be microchipped.
  • Costumes. If you dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit its movement, hearing, sight or ability to breathe or bark. Also check the costume for choking hazards. A simple, festive Halloween bandanna is a smart alternative to dressing your pet from head to paw.
  • Decorations. Avoid putting candles in jack-o-lanterns. Pets can knock over them over and start a fire. Also, make sure pets have no access to wires and cords from holiday decorations. If chewed, a wire can damage a pet’s mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or deliver an electrical shock.
$75 million targeted to control pet overpopulation

A nonprofit animal welfare agency is offering $25 million for the person or group that creates a a safe, one-time non-surgical means to sterilize dogs and cats and is committing another $50 million to support the research.

The money is being made available by Found Animals Foundation, USA Today reports. Animals are "helpless," foundation founder Gary Michelson told the newspaper. "They depend on humans for a good life."

Michelson, 59, a retired Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon who Forbes magazine named on of the 400 richest Americans, shares his home with two rescued pit bulls and a runt-of-the-litter whippet.

"We're completely agnostic regarding the approach," says foundation executive director Aimee Gilbreath. "We'll consider anything. We really believe if cutting-edge technologies are applied we can solve this."

The foundation is partnering with the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, a nonprofit organization that believes millions more pets would be sterilized if a non-surgical alternative existed. "This is huge for our cause," alliance president Joyce Briggs said.

Hartz recalls some dogs treats

Chicken-Basted Rawhide Chips for dogs are voluntarily being recalled by Hartz Mountain Corp. because of potential salmonella contamination.
The recall involves two-pound plastic bags of chips with lot code JC23282, UPC number 3270096463, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They were distributed to a national retail customer that the the Secaucus, N.J.,- based company did not identify.

Normal testing that Hartz conducts through an independent outside laboratory detected no salmonella in any Hartz rawhide products, but sample testing conducted by another laboratory did indicate the presence of the bacteria in a sample bag of the Chicken-Basted Rawhide Chips, the FDA said.
Hartz is investigating the difference in test results and the potential source of the problem. It said there have been no reports of any animals or humans becoming ill.
For more information and reimbursement, consumers can contact Hartz at 1-800-275-1414.

Pet parents come up with unusual dog names

Move over Lady, Bear and Max, and say hello to Rush Limbark, Sirius Lee Handsome and Rafikikadiki.

Those are the top three most unusual names pet parents gave to their dogs, according to a survey by Veterinary Pet Insurance. VPI had its employees select 50 unusual dog names and then vote for the 10 most unusual names.

"For many pet parents, naming a pet is an opportunity to express personal creativity," VPI official Curtis Steinhoff stated in a press release. "We often highlight the popular names, but the truth is that the majority of pets have a unique name or a name shared by very few other pets."

Rounding out the top 10 unusual dog names are: Low Jack, Meatwad, Peanut Wigglebutt, Scuddles Unterfuss, Sophie Touch & Pee, Admiral Toot and Spatula.

Bobbi Dobbler of Smock, Pa., explained her golden retriever's unique name, Sophie Touch & Pee. "Every time you would touch her, she'd get so excited you had to watch your shoes," Dobbler said.

Buena Silverman of Holicong, Pa., named her dog Rush Limbark after she noticed she appeared to enjoy listening to the conservative radio talk show host.

Minnesota humane society gets financially creative

A Minnesota animal humane society has turned to a profit-making venture to support its nonprofit pet projects.

The Animal Humane Society is turning a vacant office-warehouse near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport into an upscale, 24-hour pet boarding and dog daycare facility, Finance and Commerce of Minneapolis reports. The facility, called Now Boarding, will have indoor and outdoor play and exercise areas, training, and a spa and grooming area equipped with a therapy pool and massage services.

The new business will operate as a for-profit subsidiary of the Animal Humane Society and generate money for the society’s nonprofit programs, said Janelle Dixon, president and CEO of the Animal Humane Society. "It’s important, especially in these economic times, to look at diversity of funding," she said.
The Animal Humane Society is the largest animal welfare organization in the Upper Midwest and one of the five largest in the nation, according to society spokeswoman Deb Balzer. Its largest facility is in Golden Valley, but it also has locations in Coon Rapids, Woodbury, Buffalo, and St. Paul.

Persistence leads to new Utah animal shelter

After decades of dreaming, planning and building, an animal shelter in Utah is up and running.
The Cache Humane Society spent $540,000 to make the animal shelter in Logan, Utah, a reality, the Herald Journal reports. The shelter has room for about 60 cats and 60 dogs.

"It’s been in the works for 40 years," Ron Thorkildsen, president of the organization’s board of trustees, told the newspaper.The long process started with dreams, then the property was purchased 15 years ago for $50,000 and $30,000 was spent on architectural plans 13 years ago.
Three years ago, the shelter was finally constructed, but the building sat vacant in need of a left-hand turn lane before it could open. The turn lane cost approximately $260,000, and that was a "very low bid" from a generous contractor, Thorkildsen said.

Darla Clark, vice president of the board of trustees and a former Logan mayor, describes the shelter as "a dream come true."

Animal medicines turning into big business

Makers of animal pharmaceuticals are seeing a surge in demand for their products as pet parents seek out the best possible veterinary care for their companions.

Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug maker which has its global headquarters for veterinary medicine in western Michigan, says sales growth from animal health projects has outpaced overall business in recent years, the Detriot News reports.

"It’s not a trivial component of the business," Catherine Knupp, Pfizer’s vice president of veterinary medicine research and development, told the newspaper. "It is one that is appreciated in value because of its growth."

In 2007, revenue for Pfizer's animal products was up 14 percent to $2.6 billion, while total pharmaceutical revenue for the drug maker dropped by 1.4 percent to $44.4 billion that same year.

Nationwide, sales of animal drugs rose to $4 billion in 2007, a 10 percent increase from the year before, according to the Animal Health Institute, which represents companies that make livestock and pet health care products. Demand for specialized pet products is expected to grow in coming years as more pet parents spend on health care for their animals.

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