DNA Study shows disease causing variants in cats

Studying the DNA of animals helps breeders produce healthier animals. A recent study conducted by Heidi Anderson from Wisdom panel in the USA and researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland found that there were 13 genetic variants in pedigree cats that are linked to diseases. This was more than researchers previously thought. The good news is that these variants are decreasing in breeds that are regularly DNA tested.

The researchers studied over 11,000 cats which included 90 pedigree breeds and breed types as well as 617 non-pedigree cats. What is interesting is that the researchers found that there was more genetic diversity in the non-pedigree cats. The non-pedigree cats had three disease associated variants found exclusively in non-pedigree cats. The bad news is that they found 13 disease associated variants in 47 breeds where none had been found previously. In the past, 40% of Persian cats were affected by PKD1, the variant that causes Polycystic Kidney Disease yet of the 118 Persians tested, none had the variant, yet it was found in Main Coon and Scottish Straights cats. Good breeding practices will continue to provide healthier pets for everyone.

Do octopuses, squid and crabs have emotions?

If they do, then this may change the way people think of these creatures. In a view shattering report, Kristin Andrews, a York University Professor, and also the York Research Chair in Animal Minds, who is working with the London School of Economics supported by the U.K. government has concluded that there is enough proof that decapod crustacean’s and cephalopod mollusks have feelings.

Scientists have demonstrated that octopuses can solve complex puzzles and that they show preferences for different individuals. This is a huge leap in traditional beliefs. For example, even up to the 1980’s it was believed that human babies who were pre-verbal and animals did not feel pain. However, research has shown that mammals, fish, octopuses and crabs, avoid pain as well as dangerous locations. Mammals have shown empathy and concern when their young are in pain.

photo from dreamstime

This research has opened the door to consider whether or not these animals experience curiosity, affection or look forward to a future reward. But more importantly, just as the United Kingdom is seriously considering amendments to its animal welfare legislation that acknowledges the feelings of these beings, so must the rest of the world.

Sue’s Note: Think about the thought process that it takes to solve complex puzzles and show preference to a specific individual. Wouldn’t that indicate the presence of emotions? When someone prefers one thing over another, isn’t that an example of an emotional reaction? Think about it.   

Cannabis poisoning in pets

Since the use of cannabis has become legal in Canada and the United States, there has been an increase in the number of pets who have suffered cannabis poisoning. Researcher Richard Quansah Amissah of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues have conducted a study of this problem.

Although most of the animals that suffered from cannabis poisoning were dogs, the other pets included, cats, iguanas, ferrets, horses and cockatoos. Most of the poisoning was due to the pets eating cannabis edibles.

The symptoms (mostly in dogs) included urinary incontinence, disorientation, and a slow heart rate. Most pets were treated as outpatients and recovered. Although some died, it is not clear if there may have been underlying medical issues that contributed to the death of the pet.

Authors Note: Cannabis edibles should be treated as any other drug and kept in a safe place where pets, children and other adults who are not authorized to use cannabis, cannot ingest the products.  

Many pet owners do not handle pet food safely

A recent study conducted by Dr. Emily Luisana of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and her colleagues demonstrated that many pet owners do not handle pet food and bowls safely. According to their study people did not handle their pet food or pet dishes in manner that reduces the bacteria that causes illness in both people and pets.

Pet food should not come in contact with surfaces where human food is prepared, bowls must be thoroughly cleaned and/or sanitized and people should wash their hands after handling food and bowls.

Sue’s Note: This is especially important where children are concerned because they will touch pet food and bowls, and possibly put their fingers in their mouths without washing them.

photo from freepic

Older pets whose digestive systems are weakened from age or illness may not be able to tolerate the bacteria buildup and suffer further health issues. Treats such as rawhide, natural bones, pig ears, cow hooves and other such products are a high risk due to the bacteria on them as well as a choking or intestine blockage risk for dogs.

Pet bowls and any utensils used with the pet food such as forks, spoons, etc. should be washed with very hot water and soap or run through a dishwasher after each use, this would include water bowls which should be cleaned at least daily.

Night blindness in dogs cured

Just a few short years ago, 2015 researchers at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine discovered that dogs could develop a form of inherited night blindness that is very similar to the same condition in people. Then in 2019 they identified the gene that is responsible for this condition.

Night blindness in people is referred to as congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) and prevents people from distinguishing objects in dimly lit situations. This condition makes it nearly impossible for people with CSNB to drive at night or see when there is no artificial light.

The researchers have found that a group of cells deep in the retina called ON bipolar cells are the culprit. They have developed a single injection of gene therapy that has corrected night blindness in dogs that lasts a year or longer. They did observe that some dogs had better recovery than others.

The researchers are studying whether or not one injection will last a lifetime. They are also developing a therapy that can be used in a clinical trial for people.

Real Estate Today: Seller Beware

The real estate market is probably the most active then it has been in many years. The job of the RE agent is a difficult one since they have to juggle negotiating between the seller and buyer. Often the seller has lived in their house for most of their adult life. They have invested thousands of dollars into their home. While most RE agents are honest and do their best, this book will help the seller understand what is taking place and enable them to make decisions that will benefit them. My book Real Estate Today: Seller Beware helps the seller understand these decisions.

Sometimes RE agents on both sides of the transaction lean toward helping the buyer instead of the seller. This book will save the seller thousands of dollars. It is well worth the investment.

For some people, cat faces are not hard to read

In a recent study to determine if people can read a cat’s expression, Prof. Lee Niel, and Prof. Georgia Mason, from University of Guelph’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare made an interesting discovery.

They showed videos of cats who were in a positive frame of mine, such as soliciting petting or treats, and of cats in a negative state either due to health issues or in a situation where they wanted to retreat, to a group of people. None of the videos showed extreme fear such as flattened ears or bared fangs. The videos showed only the cat’s face.

The group consisted of men and women and not all of the people were cat lovers. Women, especially those who were veterinarians or vet technicians scored the highest. This finding is consistent with previous research that indicates women are better at decoding non-verbal displays of emotion than men.

The results of this study show that it is possible read a cat’s expressions and that it is possible to teach people how to do this, thus fostering a stronger bond between cats and people.

Esophageal disorder in dogs

Some breeds, especially German Shepherd Dogs suffer from congenital idiopathic megaesophagus (CIM) disorder. This prevents puppies from swallowing food and they often must be euthanized as a result. Some dogs live past puppyhood but still must be euthanized. Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, Dachshunds, and Miniature Schnauzers are some of the other breeds that suffer form megaesophagus.

CIM usually becomes apparent when a puppy is weaned from its mother and starts to eat solid food, at about four weeks of age. The only way to get food into a puppy who has this condition is to feed them while sitting upright. They must remain upright for at least 30 minutes. While some puppies outgrow the condition, many need symptomatic management for the rest of their lives. They must be fed small liquid meals multiple times a day, gelatin cubes and they require drug therapy.

The good news is that Leigh Anne Clark a researcher at the Clemson University Department of Genetics and Biochemistry and her team have developed a genetic test to determine if a dog has the gene responsible for this disorder. Responsible breeders who have produced puppies that had ICM should have their dogs tested and avoid breeding dogs who have the gene for ICM. 

Surprising activity in Tufted Titmice and Chickadee’s

Researcher Mark Hauber a professor of evolution, ecology and behavior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and other scientists have made an unusual discovery. They found that Tufted Titmice and Chickadees will use animal hair to line their nests. While this may not seem unusual, what he found by studying videos, was that the birds braved landing on sleeping mammals to pluck out their hair. It seems the mammals did not mind having the birds do this and some did not wake up. The fact that these birds use animal hair was not new to the researchers, but it was always assumed that the birds obtained the hair from carcasses, not from live animals.

Tufted Titmouse

The researchers have named this behavior “kleptotrichy” which is Greek for “theft” and “hair.” As the researchers further studied this behavior, they found that the birds plucked hair from 47 humans, 45 dogs, three cats, three raccoons and a porcupine. I wonder if the humans were aware of the plucking birds.

Lily the Havanese
budgie who pulled Lily’s tail

What came to mind for me was a parakeet (budgie) that I owned years ago. While I was working in my office, I would let the bird fly around. My small Havanese would sleep in her bed next to my desk. The keet would sit on my lamp and watch the dog. Then he would fly down, landing on the floor and tilt his head back and forth as birds do, watching her sleep. He would take a few hops toward her until he reached her tail and then he would grab one hair and pull it. The dog would wake up, half rise and growl at the bird, who would squawk bird laughter, as he flew back to the lamp. When the dog went back to sleep, he would do it all over again. I always felt that he did it for fun but who knows?

Do birds become dependent on bird feeders?

Many people love to offer seed in bird feeders and watch the birds who come to the feeders. I personally have gotten many great photos of unusual species that came to my feeders. Like many people, I worried when I was not able to fill the feeders, especially in the winter, that the birds would be hungry and not be able to find food.

A recent study conducted by animal ecologist Jim Rivers at Ohio State University found that feeding birds did not cause any negative effects. It was determined that there was enough natural food available for the birds to sustain themselves.

Since this study focused on Black Capped Chickadees, I would like to point out that Chickadees will store food, especially seeds from feeders, in tree crevices and other places, to eat later. The brain of Chickadees grows from late summer to fall in order to remember where they hid the food.

One of the major problems people have when they feed birds is that squirrels and other rodents eat the bird seed. As an avid bird feeder and watcher, I have tried every squirrel proof feeder on the market. As a result, I have found that there is only one truly squirrel proof feeder. These feeders are made by Brome. What I also like about these feeders is that they are guaranteed for life and that they are so well made that they last. Some of my Brome feeders are over fifteen years old. Three of my feeders even survived a black bear attack. I strongly suggest if you like to feed the birds to invest in these feeders.

If you live in an area where you have bears, you need to bring them in at night or only provide food in the winter. I have included some photos I have taken of birds at my feeders.

Indigo Bunting
Rose Breasted Grosbeak on Brome feeder