Just My Type

Pet Blood Bank UK first Bramble Craddock award winner Stop Press: The Pet Blood Bank UK are trying to raise £18,000 for a new van. You can make a donation here:

Pet Blood Bank UK Van Appeal

June 14th was World Blood Donor Day, so a timely reminder that Pet Blood Bank UK have been carrying on (almost) regardless during the current restrictions, with safe distancing donations from donor dogs.

One dog can help to save up to four dogs’ lives in each donation and dogs can nw donate up to six times per year. If your dog is fit and well, between 1 and 8 years old, weighs over 25kg and has never travelled abroad, why not consider becoming a donor?

Dutch Courage

pug face measurement At last some real action on brachycephalic dog welfare. Pedigree Dogs Exposed has circulated the news that the Dutch Kennel Club will no longer issue full pedigree certificates to extreme brachycephalic breeds unless an independent veterinary check confirms that at least one parent has a muzzle of the required length. This refers in turn to legislation that introduced six new breeding criteria in March 2019 and stipulated standards for eye conformation, nostril stenosis, abnormal breathing, excess skin folds and that muzzle length must be at least one third the length of the dog’s head, with the aim to breed towards half the length of the head.

Predictably, breed clubs, with one notable exception, were outraged. All the usual eugenic protests surfaced including that from the Pug Breed Council in the UK that accused the Dutch KC of “being happy to see the demise of historic breeds that have existed for hundreds of years.” They are wilfully oblivious to the fact that these comparatively modern dog breeds have not existed in the current extreme forms for more than a handful of decades. The Pug Breed Council added that “The Dutch government’s decision is “beyond our comprehension.”

It is truly beyond my comprehension how anyone purporting to be concerned for the welfare of dogs could perpetuate the misery and suffering in dogs that so many of these breeders are producing. Breed clubs and Kennel Clubs perpetually lay the blame for poor breeding at the feet of back-street breeders and puppy farmers whilst not apparently recognising that they are at the top of this rotten tree, strutting their stuff with what the RSPCA’s then chief vet Mark Evans called in 2008 “a parade of mutants”.

Legislation forbidding breeding that compromises welfare has existed in the Netherlands since 2014 and in the UK since 2006, strengthened by the new licensing legislation that came into effect in 2018. Little if anything has changed though.

The Dutch KC is planning a separate registry for dogs that do not meet their criteria and another registry for outcrosses bred with the aim of improving the phenotype. Dogs on those registers can be tracked but will not be accepted on to the stud book or into the show ring.

About time too.

Maybe we will one day be able to see dogs that again represent a truly proud heritage. Dogs that can mate, breathe, eat and regulate their body temperature properly. Dogs that can play and sleep without collapsing. The Dutch Kennel Club seems to be taking the first steps towards that day. Let us hope that where they lead, others will follow – and that many other breeds suffering from exaggerated conformation will be brought into consideration.

Maybe one day humans will realise that these hideous neotenised, snorting animals with infected skin and grossly shortened lives are not grateful for the “care” that owners lavish upon them and, above all, that there is nothing cute about misery.

The following breeds are affected by the legislation in the Netherlands:

  • Affenpinscher
  • Boston Terrier
  • Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Griffon Belge
  • Griffon Bruxellois
  • Japanese Chin
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Pekingese
  • Petit Brabancon
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu.

Sniffing Out Trouble

Dogs evolved as dogs precisely because of their relationship with humans. Man made dog and dog helped man.

Although the “jobs” that dogs undertake have changed radically in recent years, man and dog are still as thick as thieves and greater understanding of the science behind the relationship has enabled us to communicate and fathom dogs in a way that was undreamed of.

Anecdotal accounts of dogs being able to detect malignant tumours in humans led to dogs being trained to detect all sorts of volatile compounds that cause illness in man.

Now a study is underway in which six dogs are being trained to see if they can detect the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID 19. The charity Medical Detection Dogs are working in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University, with the aim that dogs could help to provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis, perhaps as soon as in 6 weeks.

MDD has already trained dogs to detect various cancers, Parkinson’s disease, bacterial infections and malaria.  Dogs are also able to detect subtle changes in skin temperature, so could potentially indicate if someone has a fever.

Trained dogs could be deployed to identify incoming infected travellers or be deployed in other public spaces to help with tracking and tracing infection as the lockdown is eased.

Pariah!

Indian pariah dog It is understandable in the current situation that research is published quickly and, of necessity, before peer review. Creditably, it is also often made available via Creative Commons licensing.

One such paper has been picked up by various media today suggesting that feral dogs rather than pangolins could have been a vector for the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Approximately 80% of the world’s dogs are feral, living alongside but not formally with, humans with varying degrees of tolerance on the part of the latter. One such group of dogs is a landrace dog on the Indian sub-continent. Taking their name from the Pariah tribe of Madras, a derivation of the Anglo-Indian word pye or paë and the Hindi pāhī meaning ‘outsider’, the term has become synonymous with all outcasts particularly those who are ostracised. Just as the very word “dog” is used as an insult, so the poor pariahs.

Feral dogs can and do transmit zoonotic diseases, notably rabies, but academics have already poured scorn on the suggestion that they have been responsible for humans contracting COVID-19.

The consensus appears to be that conclusion have been drawn from weak and erroneous evidence based on the suggestion that feral dogs ate infected bats and were them presumably eaten by humans as it has already been proven that dogs do not become symptomatic even in the rare event that they have become infected and that they do to transmit the virus easily.

As Professor James Wood, Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine and researcher in infection dynamics and control of diseases at the University of Cambridge, said:

“I find it difficult to understand how the author has been able to conclude anything from this study, or to hypothesise much, let alone that the virus causing COVID19 may have evolved through dogs.  There is far too much inference and far too little direct data.  I do not see anything in this paper to support this supposition and am concerned that this paper has been published in this journal.  I do not believe that any dog owners should be concerned as a result of this work.”

Looks Can Kill

puppy in gift box New research from the Dogs Trust has revealed various alarming reasons that people give for purchasing a dog.

Unsurprisingly, appearance is often prioritised over health and, horrifyingly, in the case of brachycephalic dogs, because of their poor health. The survey also found that “…owners who kept brachycephalic breeds tended to be younger, buying for the first time and without any prior ownership of dogs”.

Another study found that “…owners of French Bulldogs and Chihuahuas, breeds that are prone to health problems owing to their extreme body conformation, [felt that] the health of the breed was reported to be of less importance in pre-acquisition motivations when compared to the dog’s appearance…Thus, it is possible that health, as a trait, is potentially important in some owners’ acquisition motivations, though here it is poor health that is being favoured.”

This may also explain why some owners are unwilling to allow their dog to undergo life-changing surgery such as correction for BOAS. This is backed up by another study which found that “…owners of brachycephalic dogs were less likely to see either parent of their puppy: 12% of brachycephalic owners saw neither parent, compared to 5% of non-brachycephalic owners. Those who owned brachycephalic dogs were also less likely to ask for any health records, suggesting that owners of these dogs are less motivated to buy a healthy individual within a breed”.

The authors went on to say that owners deliberately purchasing unhealthy dogs diminishes the demand for healthy dogs, or at least health tested dogs and perpetuates the proliferation of puppy farms, back street breeders and online sales.

Looks really can kill.

Coming And Going

point of light male figure The doyen of applied behaviourists Patricia McConnell revived a post from 2010 with an interesting link to an article about human movement.

When light points are used to delineate major joints so that the observer only sees a collection of lights, the human brain not only perceives a whole human but can ascribe male or female attributes with a high degree of accuracy. Whilst that is not too surprising, whether male or female, observers reported that figures perceived to be male always appeared to be approaching but those perceived as female were waking away.

This may shed more light (pardon the pun) on the oft-reported phenomenon that some dogs are less comfortable with men than women. Generally, it has been thought that it may be due to men being taller and larger and having deeper voices but perhaps it is also gait?

Many people intimidate dogs by their direct approach; I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that “Dogs love them” as they loom over a flinching dog, hand over the face. We owe it to dogs to be considerably more conscious of the effect that our physicality has them and maybe now we have another tool in the box to help male dog owners.

A Dog’s Dinner

lifespan and obesity in dogs A retrospective study involving 50,787 12 breeds of companion dog aged between 6½ and 8½ has found unequivocally that carrying too much weight shortens life expectancy.

The instantaneous risk of death was higher for all the obese dogs in the study and in all breeds, median life span was shorter in the overweight dogs than in the dogs of normal weight. On average:

Overweight small dogs had a reduced lifespan of 1.9 years for males and 1.8 years for females

Overweight medium-sized dogs had a reduced lifespan of 1.4 years

Overweight large dogs had a reduced lifespan of 0.6 years.

In addition to reduced lifespan, overweight dogs have reduced quality of life and are at greater risk of suffering from diabetes mellitus, musculoskeletal problems and some types of cancer. Additional weight also predisposes dogs to suffering from respiratory, cardiovascular and kidney problems and causes chronic low‐grade systemic inflammation contributing to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

The financial impact of owning a dog with an obesity‐related disease has been estimated to be approximately £770 per annum. Of course, reducing food intake will save money too.

UK vets report that approximately 40% of the dogs (and cats) that they see are overweight or obese. It is nearer 60% in the USA.

Many owners know how hard it can be to resist temptation and reduce food intake and/or eat more healthily. The pet food market is big business, being calculated to be worth £4.5 billion in 2019. Owners are being persuaded to buy more and more treats for their dogs as well as basic food, with the poorest quality food being the cheapest just as humans are bombarded by adverts for junk food and sugary drinks.

The good news is, not only will it extend your dog’s life and improve his quality of life to keep his weight to a normal level, you won’t feel tempted or hungry in the process.

Next time that you reach for the dogs treats consider why you are doing it. Is it guilt because you have left your dog alone or just a way of showing your dog how much you care for him? Instead of spending money on treats, why not get a dog sitter or show your dog that you care by playing a game or going for a walk. It could be worth nearly 2 years of your dog’s life.

2020 Foresight – A Wish List For The Year

puppy in gift box 2019 saw some legal advances for dogs with the addition of mandatory licensing for breeders and boarders but no additional resources were made available to publicise and police it so it remains largely ineffective. Much still remains to be done, not least legislation that was not drafted but not passed. The ban on third party puppy and kitten sales (aka Lucy’s Law) is due to come into force in April, but, although welcome, will have limited effects on the puppy trade.

So here is my wish list for dogs for 2020:

  • Additions to the AWA 2006 to criminalise aversive training techniques including the use of shock and citronella collars
  • Mandatory licensing of behaviourists, trainers, groomers and walkers, including requirements for qualifications and insurance
  • Mandatory domestic passports for dogs to include origin, microchip details and health records with a compulsory section for declaration of intention to breed, including health checks and countersigned by a vet
  • Limitations on the breeding of brachycephalic and achondroplastic dogs, with all such breeders requiring mandatory additional oversight
  • Removal of severely affected breeds from the UKKC CC qualifications until major health improvements are endemic
  • Sufficient injection resources to police existing and future legislation and for education of canine professionals and the general public
  • Mandatory employment of sufficient dog wardens in every local authority
  • Mandatory restriction of firework use to licensed professionals only with an obligation to use quiet fireworks and a period of public notification in advance of displays where permission is granted
  • Much more implementation of existing law with owners being prosecuted for dogs off lead on roads, obesity and neglect including long periods with dogs left alone on a regular basis.

Happy New Year and here’s hoping.

The Value Of Everything

Companion animals are big business. With approximately 26% of the population owning a dog and/or a cat, feed, veterinary care and accessories alone make a large contribution to the economy. A puppy can easily cost a four figure sum, regardless of provenance; in fact, the more dubious the breeder, the likelier that the price demanded will be high.

Legally, animals are regarded as either wild, chattels or livestock. This effects any value placed on them in the event of an insurance claim or similar legal redress. This makes sense in that, whatever the emotional attachment, animals clearly do not have the capability of representing themselves in any judicial proceeding. However, it of course does not take into account the emotional value that the animal holds for humans.

Whilst this also applies to farm animals, it is the impact of valuation on companion animals that is most likely to change, if the lead taken in the USA is anything to go by. Half of the population in the USA owns at least one dog, compared to just over a quarter of the UK population. Companion dogs have been increasingly commodified in recent years and Americans spent ten times as much on companion animals than on legal marijuana and more than twice as much as on pizza.

Much of this is to be regretted, with many people breeding, buying and owning dogs as they might any other consumable, and consequential effects on canine welfare. However, the other side of that coin is that dogs are paradoxically becoming valued in an emotional sense that goes beyond their legal designation as chattels without attributing anthropomorphic “rights”.

Academics Simon F Header, Deven Carlson, Hank Jenkins Smith and Joe Ripberger used a formula, previously devised for valuing human life and calculated that the value of a companion dog is $10,000 (£7,500). A similar calculation has valued a human life at $10M (£75M). This is considerably more than the “price of a replacement” sum that could be granted in law in any compensation claim.

Of course, emotionally our canine companions are priceless and it is uncomfortable for many to consider their dog in monetary terms. In some instances, setting a so-called shadow price on the life of a dog at least takes into account that emotional value and means that in cases of negligence for instance, a much fairer level of compensation can be sought. It remains to be seen if the judiciary or professional bodies in the UK will follow the USA’s lead, but it is surely only a matter of time.

Apocalypse Now

There has been a great deal of hysteria recently about the global climate but meanwhile a much more immediate danger is seeping under the radar, largely ignored.

The effects of not vaccinating humans is beginning to be noticed and worryingly similar declines in vaccinating companion animals are being noted.
However, the real spectre at the feast is growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Just as we are seeing outbreaks of epidemics of diseases such as measles and mumps that had become comparatively rare in the past half century, there is an increase in cases of sepsis and tuberculosis to name but two, that are resistant to our current range of antibiotics. No new major antibiotics have been developed since 1987. AMR is already causing 700,000 deaths per annum and is predicted to cause 10 million deaths per annum globally by 2050. Things that we once paid little attention to, from minor scratches to surgical procedures are becoming increasingly riskier.

It is in this context that the latest research [1] published on the harm caused by raw feeding should be considered. The authors identified “……raw meat sold at retail level (beef, poultry and fish)…as a major source of exposure of humans to AMR bacteria, including Enterobacteriaceae with resistance to drugs categorised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as critically important antimicrobial agents (CIAs)”. Steak tartare and sushi aside, most people eat cooked meat and fish and exposure to pathogens is limited. However, this is not true of raw food sold for animal feed or bought to feed animals.

Major studies in Canada and the Netherlands have advised that raw feeding poses a danger to animal and human health and now a review of raw diets sold for canine and feline consumption in Switzerland has come to the same conclusion.

The diets were purchased in September and October 2018 from pet shops in six cities and online. Four more samples were obtained from a firm that was officially certified based on hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) hygiene standards through the county veterinary office.

The EU regulations 1069/2009 and 142/2011 specify permits limits on the presence of Enterobacteriaceae for by- products of slaughtered animals intended for animal feed. 72.5% of the food in this study exceeded that threshold across all suppliers.
Additionally, salmonella was isolated from 3.9% of the samples in spite of the fact that the EU regulations cited above prohibit the presence of salmonella in raw foods sold for animal consumption. Previous studies found salmonella in 7% of raw diets sold in Sweden and the USA and 20% in The Netherlands and Canada. Research published in 2016 found that 18.3% of faecal samples tested in dogs visiting UK vets carried AMR E.coli strains. Again, the authors concluded that close contact with pathogen-shedding dogs poses a potential risk to humans and provides a “…potential reservoir of AMR bacteria or resistance determinants…In the studies of dogs in the UK, feeding dogs RMBDs, especially raw poultry, was identified as a risk factor for faecal ESBL-producing E. coli. Accordingly, the high rate of contamination (60.8%) of RMBDs with ESBL producers, as well as the very high rate (74%) of MDR among the Enterobacteriaceae detected in this study is of great concern.”

The authors of the latest study rightly conclude that “The significance of these findings should not be underestimated…” They further stated that raw lamb was a major source of dangerous salmonella pathogens in Europe.

Of course it is not just the presence of the pathogens but the way that they spread. AMR bacteria colonise the animal and human gut. This latest study found that “… two RMBD samples were contaminated with E. coli harbouring the plasmid-mediated colistin resistance gene mcr-1. Colistin has become a crucial last resort antimicrobial to treat infections caused by MDR Gram-negative bacteria… to our knowledge, their occurrence in commercially available RMBDs has not been documented before. It is also particularly alarming that one of the mcr-1 harbouring E. coli isolates belonged to the pandemic clonal lineage ST69 which is associated with community-acquired and healthcare-associated urinary tract infections (UTIs) worldwide.
“Our results suggest that RMBDs of the types analysed in this study represent a hitherto under appreciated source of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae.”

This is truly scary because you are far more likely to suffer harm because of the fallacy that feeding dogs and cats raw food is somehow “natural” and healthy than you are to be harmed by the weather.

1 Nüesch-Inderbinen M, Treier A, Zurfluh K, Stephan R (2019) Raw meat-based diets for companion animals: a potential source of transmission of pathogenic and antimicrobial- resistant Enterobacteriaceae, Royal Society open science, V6(191170), http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.191170