Hypoallergenic pets and children

In the past, researchers have determined that children who have a pet dog or cat, or those who live in rural areas around livestock, have less of a chance to develop asthma and allergies to pets.

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A recent study conducted by Tove Fall, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Medical Sciences — Molecular Epidemiology at Uppsala University, who led the study with Professor Catarina Almqvist Malmros at Karolinska Institutet showed some interesting results.

They determined that the sex of the dog was a factor in reducing an allergic reaction in children. It seems that children who lived with female dogs and more than one dog in the home had less allergies.

They also found that children who lived with the breeds and mixes of dogs that are supposed to be ‘hypoallergenic’ actually had a higher percent of allergies. That the hypoallergenic dogs were not better for children.

A child will benefit the most from having a pet in the home if they are raised the first year of their life with the pet.

The fact that the hypoallergenic breeds are not really hypoallergenic is especially important information for those parents who may be considering a dog for their child who has allergies.

Many people are duped into paying high prices for supposed hypoallergenic designer mixes and breeds that are labeled as hypoallergenic. No matter what the mixed breed is supposedly mixed with, it is still a mixed breed with no proof that it is what the breeder claims to be. I have personally seen many cases where the supposed mix of Goldendoodle or Labradoodle grow up to have the characteristics of a completely different breed. In some cases DNA tests showed the dog was not what it was claimed to be.

Although more research needs to be done, it appears that getting a female dog of the breed that you want is the best course of action. If you plan to start a family, get the dog first. Have the dog trained by the time you start the family. It will make the situation much easier and benefit the children that join your family.

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Another beneficial job for dogs – detecting malaria

Because the malaria parasites cause people who are infected to have a distinctive odor, dogs have been trained to detect malaria from socks worn by the people infected. This study was conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Medical Research Council Unit the Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and experts from a charity, Medical Detection Dogs.

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While the use of dogs to detect malaria is not widespread, experts hope to be able to train more dogs and use them at ports of entry to detect people who are infected with malaria. It will also give health care professionals a fast and easy way to determine who has malaria in remote villages.

However, more tests need to be conducted to see if the dogs can detect different stages of malaria and also to see if the scent varies with malaria species in different parts of the world. I have no doubt that dogs will become the most useful tool to detect the early stages of malaria.

 

 

Over 20,000 puppies die each year from Canine Parvovirus in Australia

Canine Parvovirus kills over 20,000 puppies each year in Australia. This is largely due to the fact that many people cannot afford preventative shots or expensive treatment. Often the puppies are killed or abandoned. About 40% are euthanized.

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The study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Mark Kelman, a veterinarian and PhD candidate at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and published in Transboundary and Emerging Disease showed how wide-spread the problem is.

Fortunately Dr. Kelman has started a group called Paws for a Purpose which has started some pilot vaccination programs in high-risk rural areas to try and prevent cases from occurring.

Because of how diseases spread from country to country, it is very important to keep your dogs vaccinated no matter where you live. I personally have seen (years ago) litters of puppies die from CPV in rural Virginia due to a lack of shots or the use of lesser quality shots because people did not want to or could not spend the money for proper veterinary care.

Australia’s on-going problem with CPV stresses the need for quality veterinary care for all of our pets.

Pet Health Insurance

I received an interesting email from Nate Matherson about his PetsQuote, a pet insurance and general pet advice web site https://petsquote.com/

I think the concept is a good one because I know how difficult it was for me to decide which pet insurance to get for my dog. What caught my attention is that Nate has a very interesting article about bird insurance. I know from personal experience that avian veterinarian visits can be as costly as veterinarian visits for dogs and cats.

Veterinarian care for birds is critical since they often do not show illnesses until they are very sick. Regular yearly checkups for birds are just as important as it is for other pets.

Many people do not realize that some of the large bird species are very expensive to purchase, so bird lovers have a significant investment in their pet birds. Not to mention that they love their birds as much as dog and cat owners.

Currently my home consists of two dogs, one cat and five birds. Quite a mix! And yes, they all get along.

I hope Nate’s site will help some of you find the right insurance to help keep your pets healthy.

https://petsquote.com/pet-insurance-for-birds/

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Finding a lost cat

Sometimes it is more difficult to find a lost cat than it is to find a lost dog. This is because lost dogs are more likely to come when called or to approach strangers. When cats get lost and are frightened and they tend to hide.

The first thing you need to do is start searching right away. Do not wait a day or so to see if your cat comes home. Let every veterinarian, shelter and rescue group in a five mile radius know that your cat is missing. Give them photos of your cat with your contact information. Do not rely on trying to describe your cat since it is hard to describe all the details, even the color of your cat.

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Put posters up, especially by any public transportation sites, including school bus stops. Make sure your posters are easy to read from a distance. The next most visible place to put posters are supermarkets and other stores that are popular. Be sure to ask if it is OK to put your poster up before you do it.

Keep your posters fresh, otherwise people will think they are old and that you have found your cat. How frequently you need to put up new posters will depend on the local weather. You can buy clear plastic sheet protectors that will help keep your 8 ½ x 11 posters clean and fresh. If possible have someone put the posters up for you while you look for your cat. Also place an ad in your local newspaper in the lost and found section. If you can afford it, include a picture of your cat in the ad. Even a head shot will help.

The good news is that neutered and spayed cats tend to stay closer to home than those who are intact. Typically intact cats will stay within five miles of their home. Neutered and spayed cats are usually within three houses from your home.

Looking in the five-mile radius can be difficult depending on the layout of the land. It will help if you get a map of your area and using your home as the center, draw a circle five miles away from your home. This will be your search area. The first thing you want to look for are natural barriers such as water or other terrain features that would block your cat from traveling in that direction.

If most of the area is composed of brush and trees, you will have to look under the brush and up into the trees. If the area is suburban or urban, you will have to look in every hiding place that a cat would go. Most cats will try to stay away from noise, people and traffic. That means looking on people’s property. Be sure to ask permission first so that the homeowner does not become frightened by having a stranger searching around their house. Be prepared to give each homeowner a flyer about your cat. Most cats will not wander more than three or four houses away so focus in those areas. Be sure to go in every direction from your home.

If your area has storm drains check them out. If your cat is in one you can lure the cat out with cat food that has a strong aroma. You may have to resort to a live trap. Most shelters will loan you a trap or two so that you can catch your cat.

Even if you find your cat you may not be able to get near enough to grab the cat since most frightened cats will not come to their owners. Some will even run away. If this is the situation you may have to use a live trap. Most cats are more active at night which means that this is the best time to put the trap out. Set your trap at dusk or just before dusk. Cats are also active in the early morning, just before dawn. Bait the trap with something of yours or the cats as well as with food.

While you are out looking for your cat, call your cat’s name. Then stay still and listen if the cat meows. Some cats may come out, but do not expect that to happen. However if the cat calls to you, you will be able to go to the cat.

Another good strategy is to leave the cat’s favorite food and water around your house. If you put some sand around the dishes you can see if there are cat tracks around the food or if other animals such as foxes, raccoons, or rodents are eating the food. Of course you will not know if the cat tracks are those of your cat but at least you will know that there is a chance that your cat is coming home to eat.

It is possible for a cat to be so frightened that he does not recognize his surroundings and cannot find his way home. This is especially true if the cat is strictly a house cat and never roams the neighborhood. You can help your cat find his way home by leaving a trail of your cat’s used litter leading to your house. Remember, cats have a very good sense of smell, so they will recognize that scent and can follow it home.

Although you may not want to think of this possibility, be sure to have the local shelter check if any deceased cats are yours. This is especially important if your cat is very old or is ill. If your cat did not survive, at least you will know and can take care of your cat’s remains as you choose.

The main thing is not to give up. There are many cases where a cat has been found months after getting lost. It helps if you have had your cat micro-chipped. This way if your cat is turned in to a shelter, they can scan the chip and contact you. Be sure to keep the information on the microchip up-to-date which can be done on the chip’s web site.

Being diligent, positive and not giving up will help you find your cat. And lastly, do not blame yourself that your cat got out and ran away. As careful as we are, it happens to the best of us.

Getting overweight cats to lose weight

Many cat owners who have overweight cats find it very difficult to get their cats to lose weight. There are a number of reasons for this but one of the main reasons is that owners often underestimate how overweight their cat is. In some cases, they do not recognize that their cat is overweight. The other factor that contributes to weight problems in cats is that cats do not exercise very much. Even when owners try to get their cats to exercise and succeed, it is not enough to help the cat lose weight.

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Kelly Swanson, Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Univ. of Illinois has conducted research to determine the safest way to help cats lose weight.

One of the problems associated with reducing weight in a cat is that there is a health risk if the cat loses too much weight too fast. The liver becomes over loaded with fat which can cause is hepatic lipidosis. The best way to prevent this is to reduce the cat’s food intake gradually. Cats will hit a plateau the same as people who go on a diet. The key is to keep slowly reducing their food intake.

Interestingly, the researchers monitored the overweight cats in the study to see if their activity level increased with their weight loss. They found that it did, a tiny bit, but not enough to make a difference. Therefore, it is important that cat owners continue to play with their cats to get them to exercise more. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ways to help your cat exercise. In the photo above, I discovered that my cat liked to chase tiny snowballs in footprints. Who would think a cat liked to play in snow?

Overall, the researches concluded that when the cats lost weight, they were generally healthier. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Toxoplasma gondii in cats and humans

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii (TG) is widely spread, infecting about 30 – 50% of the world human population. The main host for TG is our beloved pet cats and cats in general. The parasite is transported to humans by eating insufficiently cooked meat or by contact with cat feces, putting the parasite in the stomach. From there it passes through the intestinal wall. Next our immune cells attack it but instead of killing it, they become “Trojan horses.”

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People who have impaired immune systems and unborn fetuses that are infected with Toxoplasmosis have a high risk of death. However healthy people may show only mild symptoms.

Studies have shown that carriers of TG have more instances of mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. Other studies have illustrated that people who are infected with TG may be more prone to aggressive and risky behavior.  This is because TG will eventually get into a person’s brain.

The good news is that since the scientists at Stockholm University have unraveled the mystery of how TG works and is transported, they have found that when mice are infected with TG and given regular blood pressure medicine, it inhibits its spread.

Grain free diet for dogs may be linked to heart disease

Recently veterinarians have seen an increased in canine dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and when they compared the diets of the affected dogs, they found the common factor was a grain free diet.  The pet foods that replaced grains with peas, lentils and other legumes or potatoes are suspect.

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DCM is affecting dog breeds that are not genetically predisposed to this heart condition. Scientists have shown that dogs can digest grain. They may have difficulty digesting raw grains but those found in dog food are easily digested.

I believe the myth about grains started when researchers compared dogs with wolves since wolves cannot digest grain.

Dog food manufacturers are always looking for ways to persuade people to buy their dog food and this is one way that they can convince people to pay a higher price for grain free food.

Dogs are not wolves and should not be treated as such. The only time you must restrict a dog from eating grain is if the dog is allergic to a specific grain such as corn, wheat, etc.

Therefore, be cautious about feeding your dog grain free food. However, do feed your dog a high-quality food such as Wysong or Annamaet.

What’s in your dog’s treats?

Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy and other researchers analyzed 32 popular dog treats that could be purchased in pet shops and supermarkets. They examined 5 biscuit types, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five bovine skin rawhides, twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks.

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They analyzed the ingredients based on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines looking for the levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).

What they found were rather surprising and should be a caution to dog owners. Seventy-six percent of the treats contained 4 -9 ingredients that were not specifically listed on the label. For example, the classification “cereal” was listed but not what kind. Treats that were made of meat had “meat and animal derivatives” listed instead of which meat and what animal derivatives.

About half of the treats listed “sugars,” and all of them had various amounts of minerals. The researchers suggested that further studies be done on a wider variety of treats and most important, that dog owners who have dogs with sensitivities or diseases should exercise extreme caution when selecting and giving their dogs treats since the ingredients could cause medical issues for those dogs.

While on the topic of treats and chews, to test if the treat or chew is safe for your dog, put a piece of it in water and if it does not dissolve in five to ten minutes, there is a good chance that it will not dissolve in your dog’s intestines and can cause bowel blockage. High on the list of items that cause bowel blockage are rawhide, bones and other hard, chew items.

Feline Epilepsy

Many people realize that dogs can have epileptic seizures, but do not realize the cats can suffer from epilepsy as well. There are two general types of epilepsy, intracranial epilepsy, which is caused by defects in the brain on a cellular level and is more common in dogs and humans, but seems to be rare in cats, and extracranial which are seizures due to injuries outside the skull.

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Seizures in cats are usually caused by brain tumors, infractions or even a stroke. Sometimes the cause of the seizures can be due to kidney disease, liver disease, hypoglycemia and exposure to toxins and poisons.

Some signs of an epileptic event are:

Blank stare

Shake one leg

Cry out in pain

Falling to one side

Uncontrollable Urinating or Defecating

Paddling their feet

Loss of consciousness

Jaw chomping

Become clingy to owner

Shake

Undue restlessness

Unusual salivation

Loss of vision temporally

If your cat shows any of the above signs an immediate visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

Idiopathic epilepsy usually shows up between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. Seizures are most likely to occur when the cat is resting or asleep, in the morning or at night.

Seizures that are a result of an injury will show up after the injury. The treatment will depend on the cause of the seizure and may require a battery of tests since the seizures can result from various diseases.

If your cat suffers from seizures, keep a log of when the seizure starts and when it ends. It is also a good idea to take note of any environmental events that could have caused the seizure.

If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes get the cat to the veterinarian right away, this is an emergency. If your cat is diagnosed as being epileptic, do not panic. Be sure to have a plan for when the seizure occurs to keep the cat safe, in a place where the cat cannot get hurt. Cats will not swallow their tongue so there is no need to put anything in their mouth. Keep in mind that your cat may take a few hours to return to normal behavior.

By understanding the nature of your cat’s seizures, you can help your cat live a safe, long and normal life. While seizures are frightening to look at, with your veterinarian’s help, they can be controlled.