Sunday, December 30, 2007

Weird Logic . . . 3

(This blog originally posted on 6/14/2005.)

Did you know that "responsible" breeding is supposed to be problematic, troublesome and distressing?

No Kidding!

An experienced breeder described her philosophy for promoting natural birth (whelping) and mothering with minimal human interference. IMMEDIATELY, "responsible" breeders with more sanctimony than intelligence, dissed the experienced breeder for "making breeding sound easy".

I'd laugh if it wasn't so sad. Are we, or are we not, talking about dogs? Beasts that have been reproducing for thousands of years without human help?

Human help, if provided, should only optimize what nature has laid down over centuries of natural selection. If something more is required, then we are undoing what thousands of centuries time has perfected.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Why Dogs Still Get Hip Dysplasia

(This blog originally posted on 7/15/2005.)

It seems more and more that the portion of the purebred "show" dog world which preaches and practices genetic testing and culling based on genetic test results are heading down an increasingly narrow alley.

The path they espouse, that 'everything is genetic' and diseases in dogs can be cured simply by selecting against the genes that cause disease, is well, old school. It is a philosophy based on "Central Dogma". Central Dogma, according to Mae-Wan Ho (of ISIS), is the theory "of molecular biology [which] decrees that genetic information flows strictly one way, from DNA to RNA to protein, and by implication, to the characteristic determined by that protein."

The thing is this approach to genetics and the relationship between genes and disease has no room for acknowledgement of environmental influences. Thusly, dogs still get Hip Dysplasia despite decades of selection against the "HD genes".

Here are some highlights from the article: GENETIC DETERMINISM AS A FAILING PARADIGM IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE: Implications for Health and Wellness, by Richard C. Strohman, University of California, Berkeley

"The major new idea here is that these levels of control are not reducibly connected; it is not possible, for example, to reduce common cancer to rules that govern DNA, just as it is not possible to reduce intelligence simply to the laws governing ion fluxes in brain neurons. DNA is involved in the phenotype "cancer" or "intelligence," but the cause of both lies elsewhere at higher levels of organization, including the level of the cell as a whole and the level of cell-cell networking.
This short answer is already extremely complex compared to the idea of reducibility, that ultimate control is in the gene"


"We are becoming aware of theories of development that do not rely so heavily on genetic mutation as the source of new morphology and action but that instead emphasize the presence of robust generic processes of cells and organisms that generate new phenotypes."


"What used to be referred to as the book of life written in the concrete of DNA is now being referred to as the flexible genome. Genes alone are vitally important; they are necessary but not sufficient to determine function or dysfunction in cells and organisms (the exceptions are the rare monogenic diseases discussed here). "


"Second, real genetic diseases are rare and account for less than 2% of the disease load in the economically advanced sectors of the postindustrial world. Common diseases like most cancer and cardiovascular diseases that account for over 70% of premature morbidity and mortality are not genetic in the strict Mendelian sense. Nevertheless, the vast majority of our research budget is assigned to genetic-related problems. This 70% represents multifactorial diseases involving many genes whose interactions with one another and with their encoded proteins define an open network sensitive to environmental signals.1,15 The problem here is that, while the HGP [Human Genome Project] will be able to provide a detailed genetic map for complex polygenic diseases, it cannot provide the instructions for reading these maps. Therefore, insights into the vast majority of complex human diseases and into their prevention are not to be expected from the HGP as such. Third, therefore, multifactorial diseases and states of health and wellness are to be seen as emergent features of these interactive informational networks. They are not reducible solely to the actions of single or even multiple genetic agents or to the actions of their encoded proteins."


"Concepts of health and wellness are characteristics of whole organisms and of processes that are time and place dependent-dynamic processes open to environmental signals and contextualized by an individual's life experience."


"Here the focus is on redundant genes that more than one gene may specify any given function. In this case the reductionistic plan to associate genetic causality with complex phenotype is brought into question since the major research approach, saturation mutagenesis, depends completely on the uniqueness equation. This approach to understanding disease will generate a map or network of factors that interact to provide a useful background for a complex phenotype. However, as argued here, ultimate behavior is encoded not in DNA but rather in the environmentally interactive cellular epigenetic network, which includes the genome."


"It is as if the cell has interposed between its genome and its behavior a second informational system able to integrate environmental and genetic information into its dynamical process and able to generate from this integration responses that are functional, or adaptive.
Genetic pathways specify organismal function only in rare cases, as in monogenic diseases like sickle cell anemia or muscular dystrophy, where mutation produces dysfunction in a protein of crucial importance."


"The basic assumption is that complex disease states, at a cellular level, involve heritable changes that may include gene mutation but that also include persistent cytoplasmic changes. In addition, it must be clear what classical developmental biologists mean when they discuss complex phenotypes in terms of genotypes. What is usually meant is that all complex traits (e.g., intelligence, aggressiveness, and cancer) have some genetic basis. But this basis is so polygenic (interactive and epigenetic)-it may extend to the entire genome-that there is little in the way of practical meaning given to "genetic basis." For example, there is a genetic basis for speaking French, but the meaning of this does not go beyond the idea that there is a genetic basis for being human. In order to speak any language, we need to have something called a human genome (of which there are as many different kinds as there are humans) consisting of about 100,000 genes. But while these genes are necessary for speaking French, they are not sufficient. We also need the appropriate environment, the appropriate body, and the appropriate experience, all of which provide information not contained in the genome."


"Diseases may be distributed according to whether they are determined before or after fertilization.36,37 Those determined before fertilization (2%) are, of course, genetic and are mostly not preventable. Of those determined after fertilization (98%), there may be multiple causality, including early developmental effects, but in theory at least these are all preventable."


"The problem for medical genetic theory is that the common diseases of cancer and of the circulatory system appear to be new; they were not significant causes of death and disability in the early part of the 20th century.37 They are now the major cause of premature death and suffering in the industrial world. Clearly, this sudden shift in causality cannot be based on genetic change. Evolutionary theory and molecular biology agree completely that genetic adaptation due to mutation would take thousands of years and that change due to genetic recombination would also require much more time than the mere 50 to 100 years involved."


And, there's a lot more great information in this article. Take some time to read the full text. It's long, but you don't have to be a scientist to understand it, or to see it's implications for dogs.

Do yourself another favor and search for "fluid genome" on the internet. The information you get may permanently change your way of thinking about genetics.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Balanced Look at Neutering

I found this article on the internet not to long ago. It is VERY refreshing to see more and more people willing to take a close and objective look at the effects of this major surgery on their pets. And even more importantly, the more information available, the better informed decisions pet owners can make regarding the balance of their pets' health and well being and lifestyle with their own.

The Long-Term Health Effects of Spay / Neuter in Dogs by Laura Sanborn.

An objective reading of the veterinary medical literature reveals a complex
situation with respect to the longterm health impacts of spay/neuter in dogs.
The evidence shows that spay/neuter correlates with both positive AND adverse
health effects in dogs. It also suggests how much we really do not yet understand
about this subject.
On balance, it appears that no compelling case can be made for neutering most male dogs, especially immature male dogs, in order to prevent future health problems. The number of health problems associated with neutering may exceed the associated health benefits in most cases.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wolves versus Dogs

Here are some more stories on Wolves and Dogs from the archives...

(This blog originally posted on 6/23/2006.)

Wolf Pack Kills Dogs

Story out of Idaho, hunting hounds on a bear training trip are killed by a wolf pack.

The Fish and Game department in the state of Idaho has a "fact sheet" about keeping dogs safe from wolves in the wild.

Others say the government should keep it's wild animals on a tight leash, just like private citizens are expected to do.

Still others suggest subscribing to the ol' SSASU routine...

At the end of the day, Ms. X predicts the push to re-establish the wolf population will result in having traded an abundance of many species in the wild (deer, elk etc.), for one species in the wild - wolf, that attacks the human food sources such as sheep and cattle.

(This blog originally posted on 7/16/2006.)

So far the wolves are winning.

From Wisconsin, another report of bear dogs killed by wolves. Interestingly, this article says the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) will reimburse hunters for dogs lost to wolves. I wonder what the going rate for that is?

(Ms. X notes the original article is no longer availabe for free. Here is an exert from it:)

Timber wolves killed one bear-hunting dog and injured another July 1 in southwestern Lincoln County, the first day of the hound training period for bear hunting, state Department of Natural Resources officials said. As a result, the DNR expanded an existing warning area between Merrill and Rib Lake to include the affected area northeast of Goodrich near the Taylor-Lincoln-Marathon county line.

(This blog originally posted on 8/6/2006.)

Wolves versus Pet Dogs

Wisconsin, and this time it's not hunters, but a woman from the burbs that wrote the Wausau Daily Herald about a wolf attacking her dog, in her backyard.

No word on the outcome for either wolf or dog. I guess we assume they both live.

Ms. Western? How is the doggy?

(Ms. X notes the original article is no longer available for free, but here is an exert from it, written by a Ms. Western:)

On Friday, July 21, at 8:30 a.m., our dog was mauled by a wolf in our yard. I
did not see the attack but did see the dog in the wolf's mouth. I called the
Department of Natural Resources and they referred me to the USDA-Wildlife
Services. They came to the house, found the attack spot and tracks and told me
it may be a wolf. They said it wouldn't surprise them but there are no
documented packs in the area. I have no pictures to prove it was a wolf.

(This blog originally posted on 2/16/2007.)

Idaho gets hit again. This time it is not hunters dogs that are savaged by wolves. It is family pets.

Read the Story Here

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wolves versus Dogs (and Humans)

Seems like Alaska is quickly learning that wolves, in fact, don't fear humans as much as some people would like to believe. And, really, if you take 10 seconds to think about it, would dogs ever have been domesticated if they were half afraid of humans as people always say wild animals are?

Wolves become increasingly violent towards humans, pets

A pack of at least seven wolves surrounded the three women and their dogs
as they jogged just on Artillery Road. The lead wolves came within feet,
circling the women as they tried to get away.
"I was rainbowing my pepper spray, and they fell back a little bit. But as soon as we would turn our backs to try to go, they would run up on us, and we would turn around and start screaming again, and I would spray my pepper spray," said Eagle River resident, Camas Barkemeyer.

Here's a tip people, "rainbowing" pepper spray is a waste. You need to get some good strong shots directly to the nose of the animal.

Wildlife experts say wolves are smart animals and that they learn quickly. This means the pack will likely get worse before it gets better.
"If they figure out that dogs are easy to kill, and good food for them, then they can just come to the conclusion that there is a lot more dogs than moose, and 'let's just start eating the dogs for now.' I'm not sure they have quite reached that point,
but they are working on that concept right now," said Rick Sinnott of the Alaska
Department Of Fish and Game.
From another story at the same station: Fish and game officials hopeful wolf attacks will soon stop

The wolves living in the Anchorage Bowl are getting bold and no longer seem to be afraid of humans. . . Wildlife experts say killing certain members of the pack was the only thing that stopped a string of wolf attacks 13 years ago; and it could end up stopping this pack.
"Wolves are instinctively afraid of people, and it gets reinforced sometimes by trappers and hunters," said Sinnott.

I think that "instinctive fear" is a slender shield at best. Just ask that furry creature with sharp fangs and her head in your lap.

And when it comes to maintaining that fear in a wild predator, the only thing that works is the human not being easy prey, e.g. hunting and trapping.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dog Friendly Britain?

A wave of dog-nappings, not for fighting or breeding, but for Ransom!!! is sweeping across Great Britain.

Criminals have had it too easy there ever since the moronic gun bans, and it should not be a surprise at all that they have found another hot lucrative market with easy prey.

Hayes's dog, Hermy, was dognapped from the 40-acre grounds of her home in
Nottinghamshire. She frantically called round local vets, kennels and the
police, put up posters and turned pet detective. After six and a half weeks she
discovered Hermy had changed hands three times in local pubs and was being kept
at a house nearby.
The police refused to help her retrieve her pet, claiming
it wasn't a criminal matter, so she resorted to snatching him back from the
family that had him.

On the bright side, maybe it will encourage many more millions in our own country to war against gun control and wholesale criminal enabling.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Keeping the Man Down?

Probably not what you're thinking, furry reader! Ms. X is in fact questioning modern day standards and breeding practices.

What started this train of thought was a fascinating article explaining how males of different species seem to evolve faster than the females of the species, hence the 'flashier' appearance a lot of males have.

In nearly all species, males seem to ramp up glitzier garbs, more graceful dance moves and more melodic warbles in a never-ending vie to woo the best mates. Called sexual selection, the result is typically a showy male and a plain-Jane female. Evolution speeds along in the males compared to females.

So what we have to ask, is what happens when humans are directing all the breeding choices of a species? And their choices are driven by a "standard" that defines appearance in exquisite detail? And worse, what if that "standard" of appearance is more appropriately descriptive of a female member of the species?

In other words, what great brilliance of look and action could male dogs have achieved, if the breeders weren't 'keeping the man down'?

Can you trust your vet?

(This blog originally posted on 5/6/2006).

As if dog owners didn't have enough to worry about from the FREAKS (I'd put a link to peta here, but they'd have to pay me for the advertising and that'd be a cold day I'm sure) out there these days, it seems we can't even trust our veterinarians.

No one knows better than the owner what the quality of life for his pet is, and how the relationship between the owner and his pet is affected by illness.

Most owners these days err on the side of personal selfishness. They will extend a dog's life until technology fails them, well past when the dogs' own system has failed him.

In this case, a family's treasured pet has epilepsy at an unreasonably young age. There is no cure for epilepsy, and it gets worse as time goes on. So this family decided, after living with their pet's epilepsy for a time, that it would be better for them and for the dog if they simply put the dog to sleep. They take Annie on her final trip, and stay by her side, tearful, sad, broken hearted, as the vet sends her on her final journey.

Or so they thought.

What really happened was the vet faked them out. He only sedated Annie, and then gave her to a friend, where she survived another 9 seizure-filled months only to slip into a coma. And guess what? She was back on that very same vet table again. Is she really dead this time? Why did the vet keep her alive?

The vet claimed the family was insensitive. I don't know. It's not like we can take his lying word for anything. Maybe he wanted to do drug trials on her. Who knows?

So the family sued. I hope they win. I hope that vet is disbarred. (Or whatever they do to vets).

My readers who have experienced seizures in dogs know it's not a pretty site. It's certainly not fun and it can even be dangerous if kids are around. And Annie's family included at least 2 children. Isn't that justification enough?

You think those kids cried and worried every time Annie had a seizure? I'll bet mom and dad even did!

And yet, somehow in this "vet's" mind that makes them less human than his "friend" who could care less that Annie had seizures every few weeks!!

I don't understand where these people get the idea that animals deserve to live at any cost. Animals don't care if they die! They just simply don't fear death. That's a human ailment.

Animals probably do fear pain and suffering, if they know it's coming. Like the old, wounded, antelope that sees the lion eyes staring at him through the waving grass. He'll make an attempt to escape.

But a cow calmly walks up the chute to the stungun at the meat packing plant, without any fear or nervousness because there is no indication that suffering is coming. (See Temple Gradin's interesting site for more about animals and suffering).

Do you think Annie knew when a seizure was coming on? If dogs can detect approaching seizures in humans 48 hours in advance, I would bet they have some idea. The fact that some dogs will act anxious or run and hide before they have a seizure (Canine Epilepsy Network) is a pretty good sign that they know.

And fear.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Osteosarcomas, Neutering and ... Fluoride?

(This blog originally posted on 4/13/2006).

Well here's a bit of an eye-opener to digest.

Fox news reports that increased amounts of fluoride in the water supply are linked to increased risk of osteosarcomes in human males. This raises questions about a link of canine osteosarcomas to fluoride in the water supply as well.

So is that it? Fluoride -> Osteosarcoma and the whole concern about neutering before one year of age was unfounded? Rottweiler Study

Sure a lot of the neuter early, neuter often crowd would like it to be. But there was something else in this report that caught Ms. X's eye.

The risk peaked for boys who drank more highly fluoridated water between the ages of 6 and 8 years -- a time at which children undergo a major growth spurt. By the time they were 20, these boys got bone cancer 5.46 times more often than boys with the lowest consumption.

"Major Growth Spurt". Well, when a dog is neutered young, the bones grow for a longer period of time than dogs that are not neutered, resulting in taller dogs and the distinct potential to accumulate more flouride in the bones.

Could fluoride be the mechanism that answers the question of how neutering effects osteosarcoma development?

Gosh, exciting stuff!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tips for Buying a Healthy Puppy

(This blog originally posted on 8/4/2006).

The good thing is this list is really just common sense. Plus a few elaborations to help you understand why common sense is good.

First things first.

Things that do NOT affect the health of the pup:
1) Registries
2) Breed Clubs
3) Forms of advertisement

So you want a puppy? Here are the tips.

ONE Pick out your breed. This is step one because a lot of the information you're going to review will be best learned with a breed specific filter. Review the breed's history. Keep in mind what the breed was bred to do, versus what it does today.

TWO Learn what your breed should look like, and what a healthy structure should be. Read the book by R. Smythe, "The Dog Structure and Movement" and the breed standard(s) There are usually many different standards for a breed, each registering organization has one, and often there are historical ones as well. Read as many as you can find.

THREE Learn a little about the ailments that can affect dogs, and the ones most common in your choice of breed. This one is admittedly hard. It's hard to find information about non-genetically linked diseases, and many reported incidences of disease can be skewed by statistcs and alarmists. Learn what you can. Take what you learn with several grains of salt, and make sure you get a good guarantee (more on guarantees in a minute).

FOUR Nutrition of the parents is as important as what the pups are fed. Raw diets can provide optimal nutrition through generations, but they can go horribly wrong if the breeder doesn't know what she is doing. If you are interested in raw diets, read "Grow Your Pups With Bones" by Ian Billinghurst before you talk to breeders. For more information on how nutrition affects health and development through generations, read about Pottenger's Cats.

Ask the breeder what they feed their dogs. - Not what they recommend! But what they ACTUALLY feed. If they are feeding a wheat free, or corn free, or chicken or any sort fo specialty food, ask why. It might be a sign that their dogs have allergies, sensitive stomachs, history of bloat ect.

Puppies should be weaned onto puppy food, or adult food if large breeds, if they are not weaned onto BARF. Some breeders wean puppies onto baby cereals, like cream of rice. This practice is coming under scrutiny in humans as contributing to a rise in diabetes - a disease that also afflicts dogs - and obesity.

FIVE Meet the parents. Of all the things I can do when buying a puppy, missing this one is a sure deal breaker. Not only will you learn a lot about temperment of the dogs and the breeder when you see how she interacts with the male and female dogs, but you can visually look at appearant health. Ask the breeder to show you their teeth, ask about dental issues, abcesses, fast tarter buildup, lost teeth, extractions etc. (especially important in small breeds). Is there any fur loss on the parents? Untreated thyroid problems, mange and more can result in fur loss. Are they in good condition? Grossly fat or super skinny? Give the bitch a little leniency here, weight fluctuations (both high and low) are common as a result of pregnancy and nursing, just like humans. But the breeder should be able to tell you if weight anomilies are due to the puppies.

If the parents are sniffing and sneezing, that is a warning sign.

SIX Ask if the parents are on any medications or supplements or have ever been. It's fair to ask about every vet treatment, but realize you may not get a forthright answer.

SEVEN Vaccinations and worming. There are almost as many vaccination schedules as there are breeders. None are particularly right or wrong. In general, the bigger the breeders kennel, the more vaccinations the puppy will have had, while a holistic breeder may not have vaccinated at all. Be aware that an unvaccinated pup is more at risk of contracting some particularly nasty diseases and it may result in high vet bills or even the loss of the pup. Most breeders worm puppies at about 4 weeks, but worms are definitely something your vet will test for when you take the pup for it's first checkup.

EIGHT Inbreeding? One word. Run. A LOT of breeders inbreed, and they will tell you it is okay because they know their lines and there are no bad genes. Even if this were possibly true, inbreeding always doubles up the genes in the part of the body that controls the immune system. This doubling up weakens the immune system.

NINE Testing for genetic disease. There is a reason this is number 9. The most common screened for "genetic disease" is hip dysplasia. HD is only 30-40% genetic. Remember that just because both the sire and dam receive favorable ratings means nothing to the puppies. If you are considering a breed where HD is a serious problem, insist on seeing the screening results of all the sire's and dam's siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents, great aunts and great uncles. You want to see a overwhelming majority of good results in ALL those to gain any comfort that your puppy will be free of HD.

If all a breeder can offer is screening results for the parents and a few relations, that is virtually irrelevent. Make your decision to buy on other factors, and make sure you get a good contract.

Consider other genetic screening results in relation to the frequency of the disease in the breed, and it's treatability.

THIS LAST ITEM I'm not going to number because even if you throw everything else out the window, pay attention to this.

HEALTH GUARANTEE No matter who or where you buy your puppy, get in writing that
1) you can bring the puppy back with in at least 72 hours for a full refund if it does not pass YOUR vet of choice's evaluation.
2) you can get a replacement pup, or a refund, if your dog develops a true genetic defect within 2 years. Note that Hip Dysplasia is not a true genetic defect, and often won't be covered by the breeder. This is because the conditions the dog is raised in play as much or greater a part in whether the dog develops HD than the genetics. However, you may want to insist on HD coverage too if you are buying a breed with high incidence.

Also, beware of signing a contract that will make you return the dog to realize the genetic refund or replacement pup.

If you decide to buy a dog without a contract, recognize up front that you stand to lose the dog, the purchase price and any funds spent on vet bills.

A book could probably be written on buying a healthy puppy, but this will get you started. A little common sense goes a long way.