Chow down on the secrets to good skin and coat health.
We humans understand the importance of incorporating nutritious food in our diet. Good nutrition means that the body is getting everything it needs — vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, proteins and essential fatty acids — to function well.
A cat’s diet isn’t any different.
“The foundation of health is nutrition,” says Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and chief veterinary officer of Wild Earth Inc., a company that makes plant-based protein pet food in Berkeley, California.
So, if good nutrition leads to better overall health, then the solution to helping a cat with skin problems is finding that perfect pet food, right? Not really.
“There is no ‘right’ food for skin problems in cats, just like there’s no ‘right’ food for people,” says Heather Loenser, DVM, senior veterinary officer of the American Animal Hospital Association. “Instead of focusing on choosing the ‘right’ food, focus on making the ‘right’ choice by speaking to your vet.”
Skin issue causes:
Skin problems can present as dry, flaky skin; bumps, redness and rash; and/or bald patches, to name a few. This can leave a cat scratching and grooming excessively. The likely culprit: a skin infection (fungal or bacterial) or allergies.
The causes of allergies can be broken into three main categories:
Is it really a food allergy?-
Despite common belief, food allergies are not prevalent in cats. In fact, food allergies affect just 0.1 percent of cats, according to 2018 Banfield Pet Hospital State of Pet Health Report. This means that although food allergies are possible, it’s more likely that a cat’s skin condition has a different cause.
“Food allergies in cats are quite rare so before going through the time, expense and risk potential stomach upset of switching foods, pet owners should seek veterinary care,” Dr. Loenser says.
If a food allergy is suspected, a veterinarian will conduct a dietary elimination trial.
Feline Food Allergens:
The most commonly identified allergens for cats are:
But, may also include pork, dairy products or eggs, according to the clinical nutrition service at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University. However, cats can also become allergic to exotic meats such as venison, duck, bison or kangaroo. This means that feeding less-common proteins does not necessarily prevent food allergies from developing, the clinical nutrition service further noted.
When it comes to addressing skin problems, Dr. Ward’s first line of defense is omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
“If I have a feline patient that has any type of dermatological disorder, I’m reaching for omega-3 fatty acids,” Dr. Ward says. “In its truest form, [these essential fatty acids] act as anti-
inflammatory agents. They help reduce some of the itching associated with any type of allergies.”
More importantly, omega-3 fatty acids boost the immune system and aid in skin healing, he adds.
“The skin is the largest organ on a cat’s body, so we want to keep that barrier healthy so it can prevent other problems,” Dr. Ward says.
Unfortunately, dry kibble does not have enough omega-3 fatty acids for optimal feline health, which is why Dr. Ward turns to supplementation.
“These are highly volatile fatty acids,” he says. “Open the bag and they go rancid.”
Canned cat food has higher levels, but unless it’s a therapeutic diet designed for skin problems, it’s still not going to contain enough, he adds.
Omega-6 fatty acids (found in corn, grains and other sources) are another important component to feline skin health. However, it shouldn’t exceed omega-3 levels, a common problem since most commercial pet food contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, according to Dr. Ward.
“In the wild, cats consume more omega-3 fatty acids through meat than omega-6 fatty acids,” Dr. Ward says. “[Commercial cat food] flips this natural ratio. Suddenly there’s an excess of omega-6 fatty acids, which can then become pro-inflammatory. [Supplementing with] omega-3 fatty acids help bring the ratio back.”
Your veterinarian can help decide what particular brand and dosage, if needed, is best for your cat.
Behind the label:
Antioxidants, which can protect against excessive free radicals produced in cases of chronic inflammation, and proteins also have important roles in maintaining skin and coat health. In most cases, though, a nutritionally complete and balanced pet food will already have the optimal levels of each, according to Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University.
When choosing a cat food, don’t focus on marketing, such as flashy websites or in-store advertisements, online rating systems or reviews from other pet owners, because typically they are not based on science, Dr. Heinze says.
“Expense also doesn’t add up to the most quality cat food,” she says. “The best food isn’t the most expensive, and the worst food isn’t the cheapest. It’s certainly not a linear relationship.”
“Food allergies in cats are quite rare so before going through the time, expense and risk potential stomach upset of switching foods, pet owners should seek veterinary care,” Dr. Loenser says.
If a food allergy is suspected, a veterinarian will conduct a dietary elimination trial.
(Information provided by Marissa Heflin of catster.com)
Dogs tend to eat things that are never meant to be eaten, and in doing so they can contract some pretty serious infections. Find out what to do if your dogs gets a urinary tract infection.
Dogs may seem infallible — after all, they sometimes chew things that are never supposed to be eaten — but they can still get sick from time to time. Like people, dogs can suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can cause unpleasant symptoms like pain while urinating, frequent urination and inability to urinate. It can also lead to other urinary diseases.
Urinary tract infections have two main classifications: lower urinary tract disease (LUTD) or upper urinary tract infections. Infections that occur in the lower urinary tract involve the bladder and/or urethra, while upper urinary tract infections target the kidneys and ureters, which can sometimes be more serious. Infections in the lower urinary tract are generally more common because there is less ground the bacteria needs to cover. Once bacteria enters a dog’s urethra, its first stop is in the lower urinary tract, where it can wreak havoc. Infections spread to the upper urinary tract when they go untreated, allowing the bacteria to continue up the ureters and into the kidneys.
“Pets can get lower urinary tract disease (LUTD), which is an infection or inflammation of the bladder and/or the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body),” explains Dr. Russi, DVM, Banfield Pet Hospital.
Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria that naturally makes itself home in or on the body accidentally gets into an area it’s not supposed to be. Bacteria like Streptococcus and Escherichia coli are common causes. Other common causes of UTIs in pets could include endocrine diseases and injuries.
“There can be several causes of LUTD, including bacterial infection, stones, anatomical defects, incontinence or even cancer,” Dr. Russi says.
Symptoms of UTIs in pets are a lot like the symptoms of UTIs in humans.
“If your pet has frequent or difficult urination, painful urination, inappropriate urination, blood in the urine and/or excessive licking of the genital area, he may have a LUTD,” Dr. Russi explains.
As for “inappropriate urination,” that could mean anything from inability to urinate, straining to pee, cloudy or bloody urine, sudden peeing in the house, and more. Dogs with UTIs may also vomit or exhibit signs of back pain. Like with humans, dogs with UTIs may pee more often. For example, a dog that typically sleeps through the night may get up to go to the bathroom a couple of times.
“If you notice any of these symptoms or anything seems off with your pet, it’s important to contact a veterinarian who can help determine the cause of the issue,” Dr. Russi advises.
When diagnosing UTIs in pets, running tests is key, just like in diagnosing UTIs in humans. With humans, a doctor would likely have you pee in a cup, then run a test. Since our dogs can’t really aim for cups, the testing process is a little different and often, more complex. Capturing a urine sample in dogs can be especially difficult because UTIs might cause a dog to not be able to pee or to urinate in small quantities. That’s where cystocentesis comes in. Cystocentesis is a procedure in which veterinarians insert a needle into the bladder through the abdominal wall in order to capture a urine sample. Once captured, a veterinarian will test the sample.
“There are several tests that can quickly assist in making a diagnosis, including a urinalysis, blood chemistry panels, X-rays or ultrasound,” Dr. Russi says. “A veterinarian will use the diagnostic tools best suited for the pet’s individual needs paired with a thorough physical exam and review of patient history to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.”
With most bacterial infections, the easiest available treatment often involves medications and simply encouraging your dog to pee. This could mean walking your dog more frequently and encouraging him to drink a sufficient amount of water.
According to Dr. Russi, treatment for UTIs in dogs, “can consist of antimicrobial therapy, urine pH control, medications or dietary modifications.” In order to naturally adjust the pH balance of your dog’s urine, you can add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water bowl, which will help manage the bacteria. Alternatively, you can try the same thing with adding fresh lemon juice in the water bowl. Remember, the more your dog drinks water, the more likely she is to flush out the infection. Some homeopathic formulas sold at pet stores could include natural ingredients such as blueberry, cranberry or echinacea.
Dr. Russi continues, “In serious cases, placement of a urinary catheter to allow for urination, intravenous fluid treatments, or possible surgical correction may be necessary.”
Generally, the prognosis of a urinary tract infection in pets is good. Dr. Russi advises that it’s important to stick to your pet’s treatment plan, but in most cases, UTIs or LUTDs are not something to worry about.
“While each pet is unique, if you follow the proper treatment plans given by your veterinarian, your pet should make a speedy recovery,” Dr. Russi adds. “As part of your pet’s treatment plan, your veterinarian might recommend having your pet re-checked with a follow-up urinalysis to monitor recovery.”
Of course, there are some cases in which urinary tract infections become very serious. This most often occurs when infections travel from the lower tract to higher up in the urinary system.
“In some cases, urinary tract infections can lead to serious side effects such as the development of bladder stones, prostate infections, infertility, kidney infections, and even blood infections,” Dr. Russi says.
For this reason, it is crucial to monitor your pet as much as possible and take notes of all his symptoms. If you’ve already gone to the vet for this issue, you might want to consider booking a follow-up appointment so your pet can get a follow-up urinalysis.
How to prevent UTIs in dogs:
In some cases, lifestyle and dietary changes can be made in order to quash a pet’s likelihood of developing an infection.
“Your veterinarian can recommend ways you can help prevent LUTDs in your pet, depending on their unique needs and lifestyle,” Dr. Russi says.
These lifestyle changes can include adding high-sodium broth to your dog’s food, encouraging them to drink more, and adding blueberries, cranberries and echinacea into your dog’s diet. More frequent walks could also improve your dog’s likelihood of getting a UTI.
Dr. Russi adds that encouraging behaviors that naturally keep the bladder free from infection is one of the most proactive things you can do as the pet parent.
“For dogs, avoid prolonged periods of urine retention whenever possible,” Dr. Russi advises. So, in short, take your dog out to pee frequently. In order for this to work, however, you’ll have to encourage more water intake first. Some things you can do include adding high-sodium broth to your dog’s food. The sodium will make your dog thirstier, causing him to drink more. (Only do this if your veterinarian recommends it as it may exacerbate other health issues your dog may have.) You can also find specially formulated foods for dogs with UTIs at your local pet store or prescription diets through your veterinarian.
“While female dogs typically empty their bladders completely when they urinate, male dogs often only urinate small amounts at a time, keeping a reservoir available for marking territory,” Dr. Russi continues. “It may help with male dogs to take them for a long walk before going to work or bed, allowing them to completely empty their bladders. As with people, repeatedly being forced to wait to urinate can promote UTI development!”
Staying properly hydrated can also help deter the development of UTIs in pets.
“It’s also important to make sure your pet always has access to clean water to stay hydrated,” Dr. Russi adds. “The act of urination can physically remove bacteria that is trying to make its way up the urethra. Appropriate hydration can help reduce the chance of stone formation which can complicate or contribute to a urinary tract infection.”
Understanding if your dog is more prone to UTIs can be crucial to preventing them. Urinary tract infections are more common in dogs ages 7 and up and also, females. Male dogs have a longer urethra, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to get into. Some breeds are also more susceptible than others, as their bodies are more likely to develop kidney stones. These breeds include Bichon Frise, Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terriers, thanks to their anatomy; since each of these breeds are generally shorter, they’re closer to the ground, meaning their urethra might be more frequently exposed to feces left on the ground.
(Information provided by Stephanie Osmanski of dogster.com)
You only go to the vet maybe once a year for those regular check-ups and booster shots, but, sure enough, whenever you get within five blocks of the vet's office, your dog starts whining, panting, and looking anxious. Does she really remember from year to year the exact route you drive to get there?
Most people are interested in how intelligent their dog is. While there are predictable differences based upon the dog's breed (for example, Border Collies are a lot smarter and more trainable than Bulldogs), there is a lot of variability within each breed. This means that some Border Collies might be rather slow-thinking, while some Bulldogs might be college material. There are some well-documented tests for the general mental abilities of dogs (such as the one described in my book, The Intelligence of Dogs), and all such tests include measures of a dog's memory.
Memory is a critical component of dog intelligence, since your dog can't learn if she can't remember. This makes tests of a dog's memory a good approximation of just how bright she is in general. However, memory changes with age. Older dogs show symptoms that are similar to the memory losses found in older humans, and severe cases show memory declines similar to those found in Alzheimer's Disease (in dogs, it is called "Canine Cognitive Dysfunction").
Whether you are merely curious about your dog's memory ability or worried about possible memory loss in an older dog, here is a simple test that you can give your dog at home. Two conditions must be met for the test to be valid.
First, your dog (to be original, let's call her "Lassie") must be at least a year old. It is also necessary for Lassie to have been living in the same place for at least ten weeks; otherwise the environmental memory test won't work. You'll need a stopwatch or a watch with a second hand, and an assistant to hold the dog is helpful.
The first test looks at short-term memory. You may observe failures in your own short term memory in situations when you ask for a phone number from an operator and correctly dial it immediately, meaning that the number is stored in your short-term memory. However, when you get a busy signal and hang up to dial the number again, you often find you've forgotten the number, since short-term memory fades quickly.
The test requires an average-sized room that doesn't have a lot of furniture or other material cluttering it. You need a tidbit of food that has no strong odor (otherwise, Lassie's scenting ability will bias the results). If Lassie will not reliably sit and stay on command, have a helper present to hold her.
To start, place Lassie on a leash, and have her sit in the center of the room. While she watches you, show her the treat, then, with a great exaggerated show (but no sound), place the tidbit in a corner, making sure that she sees you put it down. Lead her out of the room, walk around in a small circle, and then bring her back to the center of the room. Leaving the room and returning to it should take no more than about fifteen seconds. Slip the leash off the dog, and start the stopwatch.
Score as follows:
The next test looks at long-term memory, which is relatively permanent and long lasting. Give this test immediately after the preceding test. The set-up is identical to the short term memory test. Make sure, however, that you place the tidbit in a different corner than the one you used for the short-term memory test. Take Lassie out of the room and keep her out of the room for five minutes. Then return her to the center of the room, slip off the leash, and start the stopwatch.
Score as follows:
This next test looks at environmental memory, which simply means how well your dog remembers the world around her. While Lassie is out of the house, rearrange the furniture in a room that is familiar to her. For example, you could bring a few additional chairs into the room, move a large piece of furniture toward the center of the room, place a coffee table in an odd corner, move a side table to the center of the room, or create several other obvious disturbances of the usual pattern of furniture placement. Try to make sure that at least five things are obviously different in the room. Then bring Lassie into the room and start your stopwatch while you stand quietly.
Score as follows:
Alternate choice memory
The final test involves alternate choice memory, or how well the dog remembers one of several possibilities. For this test, you need three identical, empty tin cans or plastic cups. Rub the inside of each with the tidbit of food that you will be using as bait, so that Lassie can't use smell to guide her choice. Next, while she watches, show her the empty cans and arrange them in a row upside-down with about one foot (30 cm) between each. With exaggerated movements, show her the treat, then lift the middle can and place the treat under it. Slip the leash off and let her go. Whether she actually gets the treat or not by knocking over the can is irrelevant for this test, but note the attention that she pays to each can.
Score as follows:
What the score means:
Add the scores from the four tests. If your dog scores 17 to 20, her memory is extremely good. Scores from 13 to 16 are above average, while 9 to 12 are average. Scores of 6 to 8 are borderline, while scores of 5 or less would place a dog in the bottom 10 percent of all dogs.
Although it is simply fun to know how good your dog's memory is, it is also a useful thing to measure your dog's memory when she is a healthy adult. You will then have a score to use as a reference to see if your dog's memory is declining as she grows older.
If your dog's memory is good, it will be easier for her to learn. If your dog's memory is bad, it will be easier for her to forget that she was pinched or pulled by a particular child. She will also be less likely to remember that she should be still bearing a grudge against you for a late dinner or a missed walk-or that last trip to the vet.
(*Information provided by Stanley Coren of moderndogmagazine.com)
Humans are often affected by allergies, especially this time of year. They can even be allergic to cats and dogs. It seems to surprise them, though, that their own pets can have allergy and asthma problems of their own! Keep reading to learn how you can keep the kitty or pooch you love happy and sneeze-free.
The National Asthma and Allergy Foundation has good reason to declare May as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. This is peak season for both people and pets to develop symptoms for both conditions. Although the awareness campaign is aimed at humans, pet owners should be able to recognize signs of asthma or allergies as well.
Asthma in Companion Animals:
Typically, asthma affects cats far more often than dogs. Unfortunately, the number of animal asthma cases is growing due to their increased exposure to environmental pollutants. Common asthma triggers include
Allergies in Companion Animals:
The following four factors account for most allergies in dogs and cats:
Treating Asthma or Allergies in Your Pet:
If you notice any unusual coughing, wheezing, or extreme itchiness, your pet may have asthma or allergies. It's important to visit Oronoque Animal Hospital right away for a thorough check-up. We will ask several questions about their behavior as well as your living environment to pinpoint a cause of the symptoms. With prescription medication and some changes in the environment, pets with asthma or allergies can live a long and healthy life.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.
Dogs. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, heartworm prevention for dogs is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible. Learn more about heartworm medicine for dogs.
Cats. Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.
How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?
The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal's skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.
Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?
Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Occasionally an affected cat may have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign in some cases is sudden collapse of the cat, or sudden death.
How significant is my pet's risk for heartworm infection?
Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).
The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.
For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.
What do I need to know about heartworm testing?
Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires just a small blood sample from your pet, and it works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Some veterinarians process heartworm tests right in their hospitals while others send the samples to a diagnostic laboratory. In either case, results are obtained quickly. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.
When should my pet be tested?
Testing procedures and timing differ somewhat between dogs and cats.
Dogs. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:
Cats. Heartworm infection in cats is harder to detect than in dogs, because cats are much less likely than dogs to have adult heartworms. The preferred method for screening cats includes the use of both an antigen and an antibody test (the “antibody” test detects exposure to heartworm larvae). Your veterinarian may also use x-rays or ultrasound to look for heartworm infection. Cats should be tested before being put on prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate to document continued exposure and risk. Because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is critical.
What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?
No one wants to hear that their dog has heartworm, but the good news is that most infected dogs can be successfully treated. The goal is to first stabilize your dog if he is showing signs of disease, then kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.
Here's what you should expect if your dog tests positive:
Like dogs, cats can be infected with heartworms. There are differences, however, in the nature of the disease and how it is diagnosed and managed. Because a cat is not an ideal host for heartworms, some infections resolve on their own, although these infections can leave cats with respiratory system damage. Heartworms in the circulatory system also affect the cat’s immune system and cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Heartworms in cats may even migrate to other parts of the body, such as the brain, eye and spinal cord. Severe complications such as blood clots in the lungs and lung inflammation can result when the adult worms die in the cat’s body.
Here’s what to expect if your cat tests positive for heartworm:
Check out the video below to learn more!
Information provided by www.heartwormsociety.org
February is National Responsible Pet Owners Month. Including a dog or cat in your family can be incredibly rewarding, but “parenting” a happy, healthy pet is also a large commitment! What does it mean to be a responsible pet owner? Here are 11 things to consider:
(Information provided by fidofriendly.com and puppyup.org)
Tracing Your Dog's Roots
An In-Depth Look with Dr. Ingrid Pyka
You may have heard of “doggy DNA” on the news, or discussed it with a friend at the dog park. Could canine DNA testing really reveal your lovable mutt’s true genetic dispositions?
While you might like the idea of figuring out whether your dog’s spots mean he’s part Dalmatian—or if that splotchy black tongue means he’s got a bit of Chow or Akita mixed in, current DNA technology has brought an incredible value into veterinary medicine, both in the diagnostic and preventive avenues.
What is DNA?
To understand the applications of DNA it is helpful to know “genetic anatomy”. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is the basic root to all genetics. DNA is made up of a long strand of proteins spiraling as a “double helical” chain. Nearly each cell of an organism holds the same DNA material inside its nucleus.
The proteins that make up the DNA are set in highly specific sequences, thus establishing the exact genetic code for the organism. Sets of proteins, called a gene, determine the entire or at least some part of a single trait. Having a gene for a characteristic does not necessarily mean it will be expressed. Genes can be recessive or dominant and even turned on and off.
Collectively, all the genes on the DNA strand are the genome. The genome is the unique genetic recipe to create and maintain that, and only that one organism.
The DNA further coils into strands called chromosomes. In most mammals, two chromosomes pair together, connecting either as a Y or an X shape. The Y chromosome establishes the male aspect of the animal.
Species vary in the number of chromosomes they have. Humans have 46 chromosomes (23 pairs), dogs carry 78 (39 pairs), and cats have 38 (19 pairs).
Using a small amount of blood or tissue sample, tests can determine the presence of DNA. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing is just one test in a growing diagnostic field, in which a fragment of DNA is replicated to a detectable level. These various DNA fragments are the codes for specific genes of interest.
Since infectious agents, such as bacteria or viruses, contain DNA too, their genetic trails can also provide a diagnosis. As they replicate within the body system they infect, they produce an abundance of DNA in the host’s body. PCR tests are gaining increasing levels of accuracy in infectious diagnostics.
DNA Testing for Dog Breed Identification
Several companies now offer dog breed identification through DNA testing. With either a small blood sample or a cheek swab, a DNA analysis can recognize the major genomes from most of the AKC breeds.
DNA testing identifies only the strongest genes in the animal’s ancestry. Just like humans where a child may look just like one parent, but have little or no resemblance to the other, a mixed breed dog will also carry the DNA of both parents, but may not necessarily look like them. For pet owners simply curious as to their “mutt’s” heritage, mixed breed gene mapping may answer some questions, or bring some surprises.
Since many breeds have a predisposition to certain medical issues, identifying mixed breeds animals may provide important forewarning of potential problems. One mixed breed dog, for example, may be found to have collie, Labrador retriever, and Great Dane in its ancestry. Collies are known to have reactions to ivermectin, a commonly used antiparasitic medication. Labradors often have hip dysplasia, a crippling hip joint abnormality. Great Danes frequently develop osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Knowing each of these potential risks, the veterinarian may elect to prescribe this patient a different parasitic preventive that is safe for collies, encourage earlier use of dietary and supplementary treatment to prolong the hip health, and more aggressively diagnose and treat any lameness that occurs in this dog.
Labeling a Hereditary Gene
Just as a gene can signal a particular trait, a pathologic gene can also trigger the development of a birth defect or a disease process. Many such hereditary abnormalities have been identified and mapped in the DNA and an increasing number of tests have been devised to diagnose them.
Maine coon cats, for instance, too often develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart). In another example, Doberman pinschers have a high incidence of von Willebrand’s disease (a blood clotting abnormality). Both of these conditions have been linked to specific genes. If a blood sample or cheek swab detects these mutant genes, your veterinarian may be more vigilant of your cat’s heart or your Doberman’s surgical risks.
Though the detection of a “bad” gene does not necessarily mean the animal will develop the malady, breeders may stop breeding the carrier to prevent the passing of that gene. If the gene is not found, however, any animal still has the potential of developing any of the medical issues. Carrying a particular gene merely indicates a higher chance that it may be expressed.
Canine DNA Registries
Being able to catalog and register DNA findings has become another way for breeders to strive for stronger and healthier lineage. In an attempt to minimize hereditary defects, many registries offer lists of breeding animals that do not carry a particular gene.
Some breeders use DNA identification as a source to prove the purebred status of their animal. Other people use the DNA to hold on file in case of the theft of their pet. The possibilities of DNA research are just beginning.
Running a Canine DNA Test
Usually all the laboratory needs is a tissue sample, such as a cheek swab, or a small amount of blood. Analyses can cost anywhere from $65 to $250 or more, depending on the test.
Many DNA tests do not require a veterinarian to submit the sample. However, a veterinarian may be a better guide for you as to which test to run and which laboratory to use. Working with a medical professional may also help you understand more of the valuable information regarding your pet that the results may provide.
Though many of the tests are run by independent laboratories, a large number have been developed at universities who are still continuing to gather data on the results they obtain. The continual research they run help the veterinary profession as a whole in determining the best prevention, diagnostic, and treatment plans.
Information provided by, Nationwide Insurance)
Having a pet in your home and family is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. With advances in veterinary medicine, you can enjoy your pet longer and healthier than ever before.
Many dogs in the United States now live to be 12 years or older, almost double the lifespan on most dogs in the 1950s. Indoor often provide companionship for 14 years or longer. And birds, reptiles, and exotic pets (even fish) are living longer lives when given good care.
If you want your pet to live its longest, healthiest life possible, it does have a price. From quality food, routine preventative care and visits to the veterinarian to keep your pet healthy plus planning for accidents, unexpected illnesses, and other emergencies, your pet is an investment. Every dollar you put into your pet is given back to you in unconditional love and companionship.
When the cost of quality medical care exceeds the family budget, families are forced to make tough decisions either bearing the debt or even euthanasia. We do not want any family to have to make this decision and we don’t want any pet to have to face this choice. We believe that planning for your pet’s care is the best way to prevent the painful decision between finances and your pet’s well being.
Preventative Care Pets age much faster than humans, so periodic wellness checks (at least 1 – 2 times per year) are one of the best ways you can help your pets live long and happy lives. Pets are excellent at hiding diseases and illness from us until the disease is advanced enough that they no longer are able to. Preventative wellness visits allow veterinarians to identify problems before they become severe. When diseases or conditions are discovered early, treatment is usually less expensive and veterinarians have a greater chance of saving pets’ lives.
Annual preventative veterinary care will vary slightly depending on your pet’s age but you should plan financially for the following:
What is the Magic Number? Unfortunately, we can’t give you a magic number to put into a pet savings account and the cost of owning a pet will vary. We can give you some options and considerations for when the veterinary bill comes. The important advice is to think about how you will manage both routine and unexpected expenses before the need arises. Choosing multiple options can also help you feel more confident in your financial abilities.
Pet Health Credit Card:
Personal Credit Card:
For a complete list of pet insurances available, please visit 365petinsurance.com
Is my cat a senior? If you’re reading this article, this might be your first question. Most of us have an idea of when people are considered to be “seniors,” but what about cats? A straight linear multiplier was once used to convert people years into cat years, but that is no longer the case. According to Pet Health Network’s feline age chart, younger cats age, or shall we say mature, at a much faster rate. A 4-year-old cat is considered to be equivalent to a 26-year-old human being. The process slows down after that. By the time a cat reaches senior status she is 9-years-old (the presumed equivalent of a 52 year old human) and at/beyond the age of 14, a cat is considered to be geriatric.
What is different about a senior cat’s checkup?
Certainly, most conditions can occur or manifest at any point throughout your cat’s life. There are simply some problems that are statistically more likely to occur as your cat gets older, like:
What can I expect during my senior cat’s checkup?
First of all, you may have specific concerns about your cat and questions you need to have answered. Be sure that those are all addressed to your satisfaction before the conclusion of your visit. Also be aware that your veterinarian likely has a process in order to minimize the odds that distractions cause something important to be missed. In general, your vet will likely cover the following:
All cats should have checkups every “people year” of their lives; depending on your cat’s individual health issues, your veterinarian may even recommend more frequent visits. It is up to you and your veterinarian to work together to decide what is best. That way you and your cat can enjoy her senior and geriatric golden years.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
(Information provided by Dr. Mike Paul, DVM of PetHealthNetwork.com)
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