Early childhood adversity lasts a lifetime

A study by scientists at theUniversity of Notre Dame on baboons has shown that early adverse conditions such as famine, abuse, neglect or the death of a parent in early childhood are not reversed by support in adulthood. They feel that things such as elevated stress hormones take a physiological toll on the body, and remain, even with a healthy, supportive relationships in adulthood.

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Because the subjects of the study were baboons, scientists measured life experience against levels of glucocorticoids (fGCs) — hormones that regulate physiological functions such as metabolism and immune function, and moderate the body’s response to stress. They found that the levels of fGC’s were 9% higher in subjects that had three or more adverse experiences and 21% higher than subjects that had no harsh experiences.

I have to wonder how this study relates to other animals. Does this mean that pets who are abused or experience harsh situations as youths, will not ever fully respond to kind treatment when they are adults? Will the stress always be with them? What comes to mind are children who are given up for adoption at birth and then suffer from attachment disorder. While further research is needed and on a wider subject base (other animals) this is important information to keep in mind when trying to rehabilitate abused pets. This may mean that failure is not the result of poor rehabilitation techniques, but is a result of the chemical changes in the subject.

Health issues related to early spay and neuter of dogs

For many years I have had working dog people tell me that a dog should not be neutered or spayed until after they reach puberty. For a bitch that would be after the first heat. They claimed that the dog fully develops mentally after puberty and that early neutering and spaying retards this development.

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In a recent study, scientists found that some breeds have a higher risk of developing certain cancers and joint disorders if they are neutered or spayed during their first year of life.

This study looked at 35 breeds over a ten-year period and analyzed thousands of dogs over fifteen years. What is interesting is that the age and sex of the dogs did factor into whether or not the dogs were afflicted with health issues.

The health issues under consideration included hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears and elbow dysplasia, lymphoma; hemangiosarcoma, or cancer of the blood vessel walls; mast cell tumors; and osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. While the study showed that early neutering did not affect all of the dogs, there were breed related problems.

I personally feel that a dog needs the full range of hormones to fully develop mentally. But it can be difficult for the owners of female dogs to control a bitch in heat and prevent an unwanted litter. For the owners of male dogs there are methods to prevent the dog from siring an unwanted litter other than neutering. It is always wise to consult with your veterinarian and explore all of your options.

As an aside, I would like to see a similar study about the health and mental affects of early spay-neuter in cats.

Coronavirus structure clue to high infection rate

This is an interesting study and one that everyone should read. According to the study conducted by Gary Whittaker, professor of virology, is the senior author on the study at Cornell University, primates, cats, ferrets, and mink are the most susceptible to the human virus.

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According to Whittaker, further research into feline coronaviruses might provide further clues into SARS-CoV-2 and coronaviruses in general.

New strain of canine distemper in wild animals

A new strain of canine distemper has been found by pathologists with the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of New Hampshire. The infected animals were from New Hampshire and Vermont. The animals infected are fishers, two gray foxes, one skunk, one raccoon, and one mink. This is a distinct strain has not yet been found in domestic dogs. There is no way to determine how many animals are or have been infected that are undetected by veterinarians and researchers.

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Symptoms of distemper in domestic dogs include respiratory disease, oral and nasal discharge, gastroenteritis and in advanced stages, neurological disease. If your dog should show any of these symptoms, take it to your veterinarian immediately. It is very important that you get your dog’s yearly shots to prevent infection.

What is important to note is that pathologists discovered that this distinct strain was identified in one raccoon in Rhode Island in 2004. This means that the disease has traveled.

The questions now are how far it will travel and how likely is it that some domestic dogs will catch it and spread it among the pet dog population. Dog owners should be diligent in watching their dogs, especially if they have an encounter with a wild animal.

Petting zoos pose a risk of infection for humans and animals

Professor Shiri Navon-Venezia of Ariel University, Ariel, Israel and colleagues conducted a study to see if there is a risk of infection to both humans and animals. “Extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) and AmpC-producing Enterobacteriaceae (AmpC-E), which are resistant to a number of commonly used antibiotics, have become a matter of great concern in both human and veterinary medicine, so understanding the likelihood of them colonising the animals is critical to evaluating the risk that may be posed to visitors.”

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The researchers also found that if an animal was treated with antibiotics it was seven times more likely to shed MDR bacteria.

Petting zoos are important for educational purposes as well as bringing happiness to both adults and children. However, it is important that petting zoos provide hand washing stations. People who go to petting zoos should wash their hands before and after interacting with the animals.

While this study focused on petting zoos, the same rules should apply to fairs where livestock is housed for show and competition. Many people pet the livestock or walk near their stalls. It is important to note that some of the bacteria comes from the animal droppings, so care should be taken to clean the bottom of shoes before you enter your car or home. If you wear flipflops or another type of open shoe such as a sandal, it would be wise to wash your feet as well. This is critical if you own pets.

If young children are allowed to interact with animals, be careful that they do not put their hands on their faces, in their mouth or handle food before washing thoroughly.

Therapy animals help brain injured people

When you mention animal assisted therapy, most people think only of dogs. However, a study conducted by the REHAB Basel, the clinic for neurorehabilitation and paraplegiology, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute have found that animals such as guinea pigs, miniature pigs, rabbits and sheep improved social interaction, positive feelings and encouraged people to communicate more.

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This is an important study which opens the door for other types of animals to help with severely brain injured people. In some cases smaller animals may be easier to incorporate into therapy sessions making it easier for rehabilitation centers. How wonderful the relationship is between the animal kingdom and humans.

Pets may suffer stress during a crisis

A friend of mine who is not a dog trainer or behaviorist, suggested to me that dogs may suffer from stress due to the current pandemic. That was very insightful of him. The more I thought about it the more likely it seemed. Therefore I am addressing this possibility.

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Anytime your routine changes and your pet, (mostly dogs and cats) notice the change, it can stress them. In the case of being home bound, as opposed to going on vacation or visiting, you are more likely to spend more quality time with your pet. This may mean more play time, more cuddle time, and more people at home collectively giving the pet attention. The pet will enjoy this and most likely be happy. However, some dogs and cats do not like the extra attention, especially from children, because they can suffer from over-stimulation. In some cases the pet will give subtle warnings asking to be left alone, but many people will not recognize them. The result may be a bite or a scratch. It is especially important to watch older pets who may not be physically able to handle the extra attention. If your pet does not seem willing to engage with you, leave him alone.

Family members may use the extra home time to groom their pets more frequently. In the case of older pets it is important to be aware that if they suffer from arthritis or a sore muscle from the extra exercise, brushing may be anywhere from uncomfortable to painful.

If the pet is younger and getting more exercise, watch their weight because they may need to eat a little bit more food since they are burning more calories. This is especially true for younger and physically fit older dogs.

We know that our pets feel and understand our emotions. As the pandemic continues, some members in the family may become more upset and stressful, your pet may react to this. They may cling to you or follow you around whereas they did not before. They may mope, or even avoid being as near to you as they normally were. They may pant more frequently, pace, or even tremble as their stress level rises along with yours. They may also react if the family members become short tempered or there is discord in the family. This is especially true if there are children in the home and they become irritated because they cannot see their friends or go out to play. Some pets are more protective of children and may react to their stress more than they would to an adult. A great activity for children is to read to the pet. It is calming for everyone.

Don’t forget that your pet does not understand the change in the family dynamics. They only understand what they see and experience. Therefore, it is equally important to watch how your pet reacts when you return to work or your normal schedule. At this time your pet may react to the sudden shift from having companionship 24/7 to being alone.

Rest assured that your pet will not forget what normal life was like, they do have the ability to recall the past, but again, they will not understand the change. More importantly, they may not like the change. It was certainly more fun having the family around all the time. To ease the shift back to normal, try to give your pet as much attention as you can when you first return to your regular routine. Gradually ease back to the normal routine that you had with your pet.

Fortunately our pets are very adaptable so many will not show any signs of stress due to the changes in our daily lives. But it certainly helps to keep a careful eye on your pet and to be aware that they know something is going on. Because they love us and care, they may react as they feel is necessary. Most important of all, show them understanding if they react in a way that becomes annoying to you.

Other circumstances that cause stress for a pet are:

Moving to a new home

Adding a new family member

Losing a family member

Changing the normal routine

Working more or less hours

Adding a new pet

Losing a pet in a multiple pet household

Remodeling

If your pet becomes too difficult to handle, feel free to contact a certified behavior consultant at www.iaabc.org Many of us can offer phone consults.

Airedale Terriers have an inherited lung disease

Breeders of Airedale Terriers in Finland sent the bodies of dead newborn puppies for examination to the Finnish Food Authority. At Evira, Professor Marjukka Anttila uncovered a problem in the puppies’ lungs. What they found was a defect in the LAMP3 gene that affected the puppy’s ability to breathe due to a failure in the lining of the lung.

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These are not Airedales. I couldn’t get a photo of one. Dog in the foreground is my Riley as a pup with his mother.  Parson’s Russel Terriers

After this discovery almost 7,000 dogs that included 300 different breeds were screened for the gene defect. However, it was only found in the Airedale Terriers. The researchers did discover that 1/5th of Airedale Terriers carried the defect.

The good news is that breeders can have a genetic test performed to determine if their dogs have the defect, thus preventing the spread. With total cooperation between breeders, eradicate the defect.

Researchers have said “As the LAMP3 gene has not previously been associated with diseases, in the future its role in the breathing difficulties afflicting newborn babies should be investigated.” This could be another case where a canine issue leads to a cure for humans. If this genetic defect is in 1/5th of Finnish Airedales, it may be in the breed worldwide.

Senior citizens and pet ownership

A recent poll by Preeti Malani, M.D found some interesting facts about pet ownership. Pets included dogs, cats, birds, fish, and other types of pets. The physical and mental benefits were evident as has been indicated by other studies, however this study found some interesting information that families as well as an elderly person should consider when deciding if it is a good idea for an elderly family member to have a pet.

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We know that the positive reasons to have a pet include but are not limited to:

  • Companionship
  • Social connections
  • Source of enjoyment
  • Feeling of being needed and loved

Some of the negatives to consider are:

  • Difficulty to travel
  • Enjoying activities outside the home
  • Putting pet’s needs ahead of their own health needs
  • The cost of pet health care, especially for older pets
  • Owner health issues that make keeping a pet difficult
  • Owner or other family member’s allergies to the pet
  • A need to move into a facility that does not allow pets
  • The risk of falling because of a pet

In some cases family support will allow an elderly person to keep a pet. If the family agrees to take the pet and care for it if the elderly person must move to a care facility, that will ease the mind of the pet owner and allow them to keep the pet as long as possible.

If the pet owner can arrange for someone to care for a pet while on vacation, this will solve the vacation issue. The pet owner in most cases will be home more than they are away so watching a pet for them may not be a huge task.

If the pet lover cannot have a pet due to financial reasons, they may volunteer at a local shelter or offer to pet sit for friends. This will give them some quality time with pets without the expense. Another consideration if the person likes birds, is to feed the wild birds. A feeder near a window can be a source of joy with little responsibility. Many people enjoy bird-watching which is a year-round activity.

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A visitor to one of my bird feeders

Often if the family will “think outside of the box” a happy solution can be found for whatever difficulties may be present.

Cleanliness at veterinary practices and home

In view of the current corona virus pandemic, I thought this study is very interesting and important for everyone to read and share. Jason Stull, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University, Armando Hoet of Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Gregory Langdon of the College of Public Health did a study about cleanliness in veterinary clinics. What they found is interesting. Please read the entire article that is referenced.

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For over a month, using a dye only visible with a black light, they studied how thoroughly surfaces were cleaned. They found that it was almost impossible to clean 100% of the surfaces at the clinic. For the current work, Stull and colleagues assessed almost 5,000 surfaces over the course of the study. On average, 50 percent of surfaces were cleaned, with broad variations by type of surface and hospital location. The human-touch surfaces were the least likely to be cleaned such as medical instruments, dog run handles, and computer mice and keyboards.

I believe it is impossible to completely clean everything in your home so that it is germ free. What I do is use a Fresh Air Surround that kills all virus and bacteria. I have used it for years and I believe my family has had less illnesses as a result. I started using it mostly for my allergies since it cleans the air very well. I also notice that it removes any odors that may occur. The real benefit is that it cleans every surface in your house continually. This is something that every veterinary practice, or any other public place can use. I am not suggesting that it should replace regular disinfecting practices, but it is a great addition and easy to use.