Clueless Cloning

boxers The news that Laura Jacques and Richard Remde have paid the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Korea £67,000 per dog for two clones of their deceased boxer must cause disquiet in the dog world and beyond.

It displays a glaring ignorance, or worse disregard, on the part of the owners for the welfare considerations of adult clones who have been shown to suffer serious ill health and consequential premature death not to mention the lab in question (previously known to have made false claims about human cloning). It also disregards epigenetics: no two dogs will ever be alike because of the effects of the environment in utero and after birth. Are the owners then just concerned about the superficial appearance of their dogs?

What a monumental waste of money that could have gone a very long way to helping dogs in many spheres rather than boosting the vanity of the owners. We should make moves to legislate against this practice as soon as possible.

Re-introduction of Mongolian Landrace Dog

bankhar The Bankhar Dog Project has been established to re-introduce the Mongolian Bankhar dog to its native environment. Bankhar dogs are a landrace breed of livestock protection dogs, similar to Tibetan Mastiffs, and native to the Mongolian steppe.

The project runs a selective breeding scheme that screens for correct genotype and ensures genetic diversity. Dogs are trained to live alongside sheep and are homed with Mongolian herders. In addition to preserving the rare breed without depleting the gene pool, this project has a wider conservational impact as the dogs warn of approaching predators such as snow leopards obviating the need for herders to shoot an endangered species.

This proves that re-introduction of even a domestic species can have positive, unexpected consequences for biodiversity as well as preserving a working breed in its natural environment.

Unconsidered Dangers of Raw Feeding

meat and bacteria Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is now approaching a global crisis. Overuse in farming as a growth promotor and a way of not bothering with bio-security and over-prescription and mis-use by humans, coupled with the lack of development of new medications means that we may have to cease to take easy curing of infections for granted.

Obviously this has an impact on veterinary medicine but it also affects those owners who choose to feed raw meat, eggs and even vegetables to their dogs. The food could harbour traces of antibiotics and, more importantly pathogens, some of which could have developed resitance to antibiotics.

Salmonella for instance can survive for extended periods in chilled and frozen foods but is usually killed by pasteurisation. Meat and eggs are considered high risk for salmonella contamination. Toxic strains of E.coli contaminate ground beef, unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses made from raw milk and raw fruits and vegetables. Most worrying is campylobacter. The Food Standards Agency state that campylobacter causes more than 100 deaths a year and costs the UK economy £900 million. Four fifths of cases of campylobacter poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry. Supermarkets now wrap chickens to curb the spread of infection from poultry. Campylobacter is also found in red meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water. It spreads easily and has a low infective dose; just a few bacteria in a piece of raw chicken or transferred from raw chicken can cause illness. Listeria is found in soil, water, poultry and cattle. It can be present in raw milk and foods made from raw milk and can also live in food processing plants and contaminate a variety of processed meats. It is capable of growing under refrigeration but is killed by cooking and pasteurisation. Listeriosis rarely affects dogs so they may harbour and spread the bacteria and be asymptomatic.

Dogs’ digestive systems cope better with infection than humans because they digest food more quickly leaving a shorter time for harmful bacteria to multiply in the gut, have a more acidic digestive environment and are quick to vomit. This doesn’t mean that they cannot become ill from infected food though.

More worrying is the potential to transfer the bacteria to humans. A Canadian study found that salmonella was not destroyed even when utensils were put through a cycle in a dishwasher. (It also found evidence of severe nutritional deficiencies in many raw food diets including those bought commercially). The US Food and Drug Administraton Centre for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) complied a study between October 2010 and July 2012, screening more than 1,000 samples of pet food for bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. This included raw pet food, dry exotic pet food, jerky-type treats, semi-moist dog food, semi-moist cat food, dry dog food and dry cat food. One sample out of 120 in the dry cat food tested positive for salmonella and all were negative for listeria. All other samples tested negative with the exception of the raw food where, out of 196 samples, 15 tested positive for salmonella and 32 for listeria. The FDA concluded that the study “identified a potential health risk for the pets eating the raw food and for the owners handling the product…Because raw pet food is more likely than other types of pet food to contain Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, the single best thing you can do to prevent infection is to not feed your pet a raw diet…If you choose to feed raw pet food to your pet, be aware that you can infect yourself with Salmonella or L. monocytogenes by spreading the bacteria from the contaminated food to your mouth. For instance, you may accidentally ingest the bacteria if you touch your mouth while preparing the raw food or after handling a contaminated utensil. If you get Salmonella or L. monocytogenes on your hands or clothing you can also spread the bacteria to other people, objects and surfaces.”

They further recommend thorough hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling raw pet food and after touching surfaces or objects that have come in contact with the raw food and thorough disinfecting of all surfaces and objects. Remember also that if your dog licks you after eating raw food, bacteria can be transferred onto you and anything that you touch. While this may not be a problem for healthy adults, vulnerable members of the population such as the elderly and immuno-compromised may not be so lucky.

With increasing problems with antibiotic resistance this may become a serious source of infection that we may not be able to control. There is no scientific evidence that feeding a raw diet is beneficial to dogs and plenty of evidence to suggest that it can cause harm to pets and people. Why take the risk?

Idiot of the Month

gdyork Walking in the park this morning, I was approached by a woman with two yorkies. My dog extended a nose in passing and one of the yorkies reciprocated. Everything was fine as far as I and the dogs were concerned.
However, the woman immediately went into a panic and began screeching at her dogs to come away. She scooped up the dog that had voluntarily greeted my dog and muttered at me “Your dog’s too big for them” as she scurried past.
Well done, lady. You have now stopped your dog from socialising and begun to train it to be afraid everytime that it sees a bigger dog. Let’s face it, that will be quite often considering the size down to which we have bred yorkies.

Jack Split

petrie dish The news that the Kennel Club are “recognising” the Jack Russell terrier has created dismay in terrier circles. The absurdity that this type somehow didn’t really exist until the KC said so aside, fears that the breed may now decline into poor genetic diversity and exaggerated phenotypes are not unprecedented. All the more important then that terriers continue to be used in the field and bred for purpose.

Similarly, the news that IVF techniques have been used to create a litter is a mixed blessing. Let us hope that it does not give a green light to continue in-breeding using genetic manipulations as a quick fix for the problems created. Instead it could provide a solution to those breeds that come from such a small gene pool that the breed is unlikely to ever exist without health problems.