Can You Help The Royal Veterinary College?

Dog for sale Sales of dogs have gone through the roof during lockdown with many owners buying on impulse with little or no research. The demand for “off the shelf” dogs means that most are inevitably bred illegally and with little or no regard to welfare.

The Royal Veterinary College are undertaking a study into “pandemic puppies”.

If you purchased a puppy in 2019 or 2020, please help the RVC researchers by completing their survey and help them to improve canine welfare.

Wanted Alive Or Dead – Red Squirrels

Red squirrel There are no doubt many of us who have dogs who might be interested in the job of squirrel hunter, but they have been pipped to the post by a spaniel called Rufus.

Humans have enlisted the help of dog’s scenting ability in conservation for many years and now, a spaniel in the six counties of northern Ireland is searching for red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). In spite of their name, native red squirrels are no longer common in the UK, having been ousted by the American grey (Sciurus carolinensis) which was introduced as an exotic in the 19thC. Grey squirrels are not affected by the squirrelpox virus that is fatal to the red squirrel and they also outcompete the red squirrels for food, having a broader palate.

Rufus locates squirrels so that they can be examined for signs of pox, enabling the disease to be tracked. A 2018 study showed that improvements in pine marten populations have assisted the red squirrel population, not least because grey squirrels form part of the pine marten diet.

A few more dogs like Rufus in addition to a managed marten population could help the return of a much loved native breed.

Breakthrough Not To Be Sniffed At

Further progress is being made that may enable the world to return to some semblance of normality as sniffer dogs trained to alert on the SARS-Cov-2 virus work at Helsinki airport.

The dogs do not make direct contact with travellers but alert on wipes that have been used to swab their neck. The dogs take about 10 seconds to work their way through the scent options and travellers who’s sample is deemed positive are invited to take a free test.

Accuracy is extremely high. A pilot study showed that dogs alerted 94% correctly when presented with 1,102 random samples. They are also able to make accurate detection in people who are asymptomatic.

Of course, it is only properly regulated follow-up that will make this a game-changer for global travel, but once again, dogs really are man’s best friend.

Puppy Chow

The body of an almost perfectly preserved puppy, estimated to be 14,000 years old, has been discovered in Tumat (Тумат), Siberia.

The permafrost has preserved nose, fur and teeth and sufficient DNA to run tests. However, it seems that this pup may have been a proto-dog as it was not possible to distinguish domestic dog genes from wolf genes.

This is the second ancient pup found in Siberia recently after an 18,000 year old pup was found near Yakutsk (Якутск), in eastern Siberia. The scientists (aptly) named him Dogor – Yakutian for “friend”.

What makes the latest find remarkable is that a pelt-covered fragment of tissue was also preserved inside the puppy’s stomach. The yellow pelt initially suggested that it was a lion, but DNA tests proved it to be an almost perfect match for a woolly rhinoceros. This species became extinct at about the same time that the puppy ate it. The puppy died shortly afterward which is why the pelt had not been digested.

It remains a mystery as to what killed the woolly rhino and the puppy.

Hot Diggity Dog

Dachsunds in dog paddling pool As temperatures soar across the UK and Europe, the risk is high that vets will see an influx of dogs suffering from heat-related problems.

With temperatures in the 30s this week, people are still walking dogs and some are even allowing dogs to run after balls or forcing them to run alongside as they puff their way along red-hot tarmac.

Most owners are sensible and take better care of their dogs, but it may still come as a shock to realise that dogs have died of heat-related illness in the UK in far lower temperatures.

New research undertaken on a sample of 1,222 dogs from veterinary records found that, in 2006, dogs became ill and died in the UK due to overheating in every month of the year, with cases peaking in July.

Just under 75% of the dogs became over heated due to over-exertion. 5.2% were due to being left in a hot car and 12.9% in another environment that was too hot.

Young male dogs had greater odds of exertional heat‐related illness. Older dogs and dogs with compromised breathing had the greatest odds of environmental heat‐related illness. Brachycephalic dogs had greater odds of all types of heat‐related illness than mesocephalic dogs. Obesity is a significant risk factor in heat-related death; many brachycephalic dogs are also obese, and the extreme prevalence of heart disease in breeds such as Cavalier King Charles spaniels also compromises breathing and cooling. Dogs are just as likely to die from heat-related over-exertion as being left in a hot car.

Meanwhile, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service warns that vets have seen dogs suffering from gut obstruction due to chewing and ingesting cool mats.

Keep your dog cool and keep your dog safe.

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.