01/30/14

The Week In Tweets – 30th January 2014

This is our (almost) weekly segment where we review the content posted on our Twitter over the course of the week. It’s a long post! So make sure you grab a coffee and prepare yourself for some serious reading.

 

But first, a video of my new chicken family. Mums are wyandottes, and babies are speckled sussexes. There are four babies – which is pretty good considering the week of hot weather we’ve had! I thought my eggs would be cooked!

 

Now on with the tweets.

 

Tweet of the Week

I loved Robin Bennet’s post on ‘Two misunderstandings about dog socialization‘. She points out that socialisation needs to be positive, and for dogs that are having trouble coping with some experiences, training is part of the socialisation process. A good read.

 

In the News

After the tornado, Greg and Coco reunited (video).

Remembering Zanjeer, the golden labrador who saved thousands of lives in Mumbai.

RSPCA push for pilot project to have pets in South Australian aged-care homes.

Dog’s best friend: Woman carries wounded pit bull down mountain - another example of ‘the irresponsible public’.

 

Rescue and Sheltering

Craigslist – Thinking Outside the Box.

What if we promoted pet adoption in low-income communities?

Does food aggression matter in shelter dogs?

Woman’s offer to adopt sick dog falls on deaf ears at Logan City Council destroys animal on vet’s advice.

From SavingPets: RSPCA ACT confirms ‘cat laws’ probably not doing much.

Rethinking shelter dogs and social influences – thoughts from the best friends no more homeless pets conference.

“About to be Homeless”.

First day, new dog: 5 things to tell your adopters.

Homeless cats: Lessons from Australia.

Lost Dogs Home criticised over deaths.

 

Dog Training and Behaviour

Spin – luring and fading the lure (video).

Kathy Sdao Seminar: 10 ways to get behavior.

Steve White Seminar: Introduction.

Gotta Love that Recall.

H*MPING.

 

Dog Health and Bodies

Help prevent canine cancer, join the golden retriever lifetime study.

Older siblings’ cells can be passed from female dogs to their puppies in the womb.

Heartbreak as crossbreed dog put to sleep as a’genetic disaster’.

The best way to cut your dog’s nails (video).

MRIs and Dogs.

Five red flag indicators that it’s time to find a new vet.

 

Other Dog Stuff

Rebel Wilson Raps and Talks Family Dog-Show Business - I love this video, and it was close to tweet of the week.

The Link Between Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence.

How to attach a lead to a show collar.

Toddler dog attack death in Queensland.

USDA Internet Sale Regulations.

The Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer’s Guide.

 

Animal Stuff

I Love Racing.

Bride chooses her horse to be a bridesmaid.

I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly.

Awesome, Amazing Rat Tricks.

Once ‘Extinct’ Pinocchio Lizard Pokes His Nose Out.

US biologist discovers new species up his nose after research trip to Africa.

 

Personal Dog Stuffs

Photographs from my (now) husband and I’s engagement session: Betrothed: Tegan & Jesse.

A video of Clover’s Starter Freestyle (Dancing) Routine.

Boof.

New chicken family.

Winnie.

01/28/14

Desexing: It’s bad for vizslas, too

Spay/Neuter is bad for Vizslas

Late last year, a study was published looking at the incidence of cancer in desexed golden retrievers, finding a correlation between earlier desexing (before one year old) and certain types of cancer.

Now, in February, there is a new study supporting many of the findings in the golden retriever study, but this time looking at the incidence of cancers in Hungarian Vizslas. As behavioural disorders are also common in the breed, the researchers decided to look at the impact of desexing on these disorders, as well.

ResearchBlogging.org

While we will look at their findings in more detail, the main take home points from this research are (quote):

“revealed that gonadectomized dogs had significantly higher odds than did sexually intact dogs of having mast cell tumour, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma or lymphosarcoma, all other cancers, all types of cancer combined or behavioral disorders, regardless of the age at which the dog was gonadectomzied. The 2 exceptions were that male dogs gonadectomized at [less than or equal to] 12 months of age did not have a higher risk of developing hemangiosarcoma and dogs gonadectomized at > 6 months of age did not have a higher risk of developing a behavioural disorder, other than fear of storms.”

And it is important to note that the age of onset was earlier for all cancers and disorders when the dog was desexed.

So now that has wet your appetite, we will look at the research in more detail.

 

About the Study

This was a retrospective cohort study – meaning it was a piece of research based on events that had happened over time, looking back at that time.

The study included 2,505 vizslas born between 1992 and 2008. Of them:

  • 604 of the vizslas had cancer(s),
  • 648 had behavioural disorders,
  • 1,421 of them were desexed,
  • 362 vizslas were desexed at 6 months or earlier (209 of these were female, and 153 of these were male),
  • 298 vizslas were desexed at 7-12 months (157 were female, 141 were male), and
  • 711 vizslas were desexed at 12 months (459 females, 312 males).

Data for this study was collected from an online survey conducted during 2008, which targeted vizsla owners to partake by advertising through breed clubs, email lists, websites, magazines, and newsletters.  75% of respondents were involved with Vizsla breed clubs, so it was a biased sample.

Participants came from 25 countries in all, including the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

This study was designed to consider age of desexing and its effects, so the owners were asked to identify when their dog was desexed, or if it was not at all. It’s important to note that many studies simply look at ‘entire’ or ‘desexed’ and don’t look at lifetime exposure to gonads – this is one of few in a new study of research actually considering the time of desexing.

 

Cancer

An earlier Vizsla Health Survey found that cancer, especially hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma, “was listed as the most common cause of death in the breed.”  Desexing was associated with the development of these cancers, according to their survey, and also associated with the development of behavioural disorders.

This is no surprise, as numerous studies have linked desexed with various types of cancer, including hemangiosarcoma, but also prostate cancer, transitional cell carcinoma, and osteosarcoma.

This research show that a desexed vizsla was 5 times as likely to have cancer (other than mast cell cancer, hemangiosarcoma, or lymphoma or lymphosarcoma) than vizslas that were entire.

Not only were desexed dogs more likely to get cancer, but the earlier they were desexed, the earlier they were diagnosed with cancer.

All in all, dogs desexed at any age were more likely to have cancer than dogs not desexed.

Interestingly, though, “There was no significant difference in the longevity of gonadectomized Vizslas, compared with the longevity for those that remained sexually intact”. This means that even though desexed dogs were more likely to get cancer, and sooner, this didn’t seem to make them die younger.

 

Hemangiosarcoma

When it comes to hemangioarcoma, desexed females were 9 times as likely to get hemangiosarcoma than entire females.

For males, males neutered after 12 months of age had a higher risk of developing hemangiosarcoma.

The research makes note that this is not a ‘one off’ event: “Of concern, studies have found an increased risk of hemangiosarcoma, a common tumour that frequently leads to fatal outcomes, in gonadectomized dogs, which is in concurrence with findings for the present study.” That means that vizslas are not alone in being more likely to develop hemangiosarcoma when desexed, especially when it comes to bitches.

 

Mast Cell Cancer

Desexed vizslas got mast cell cancer at a significantly higher rate (3.5 times more likely) than entire dogs, and they got diagnosed with this cancer sooner than entire dogs.

 

Lymphosarcoma

While there was no difference between females and males in the likelihood of developing lymphoma or lymphosarcoma, desexed vizslas were significantly more likely (4.3 times as high incidence) entire.

 

Mammary Cancer

There is some evidence that bitches left entire for longer are more likely to develop mammary cancer. However, this study says, “authors of a recent systematic review of all reports in peer-reviewed journals on the associations among neutering, age at neutering, and mammary gland tumours concluded that the evidence that neutering reduces the risk of mammary gland neoplasia is weak and not a sound basis for firm recommendations on neutering because of limited evidence and bias in published results”.  We can, at least, say there is some debate on the correlation of mammary cancers and desexing.

In regard to this study, mammary cancer was not common. There were 1,360 female dogs in the study, with 535 of them being entire, and only 11 developed mammary tumours. That is, 2% of entire bitches got breast cancer. (The authors of this study also note that 10 of those 11 bitches were desexed at later than 5 years old.)

This equates to only .4% of the dogs in the 2505 strong study developed mammary cancer. In comparison, 11% of the 2505 dogs in the study having mast cell cancer, hemosarcoma, lymphoma, or lymphosarcoma.Considering this, community emphasis on mammary cancer seems misguided as it is not biggest concern, especially in this breed.

 

Behavioural Disorders

There have been studies that have shown a correlation between gonadectomy and behavioural problems, but whether these affects on behaviour are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a matter of debate, with different studies showing different things.

The Vizsla Health Survey found that behavioural problems were prevalent in the breed, hence the focus of this study on behavioural problems. These types of behviour problems were mostly fear, anxiety, and increased arousal.

This study did something clever though: Dogs who had a behavioural problem before desexing were excluded from the analysis. The logic? “Excluding dogs that might have been gonadectomized because of a behavioural problem eliminated a confounding factor that could have incorrectly suggested a stronger association between gonadectomy and behavioural problems.”

Desexed vizslas were more likely to have behavioural problems than sexually intact dogs, and dogs desexed at or before 6 months had a 1.8 times higher incidence of behavioural disorders than sexually intact dogs. These behavioural problems included: fear of storms, separation anxiety, fear of noises, fear of gunfire, timidity, excitability, submissive urination, aggression, hyperactivity, and fear biting.

As with cancer, the younger the dog was at time of desexing, the earlier a behavioural problem was diagnosed.

Fear of storms was particularly significant. Desexed dogs were 4.1 times more likely to be scared of storms than entire dogs. Bitches were more likely to be scared of storms than males – but males desexed younger was more likely to be scared of storms earlier. (Desexing time didn’t change when females became fearful of storms.)

The author notes, “It should be mentioned that the most common behavioral problems in Vizslas in this study did not include sexual behaviours (eg, mounting and urine marking).”

 

Why is it so?

Briefly, this study predicted that sex steroids such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone is related to immunity, especially the surveillance for cancer cells. That is, without gonads to produce sex hormones, the immune system does not function as normal.

 

Highlights

To me, the most important points from this study are:

  • There seems to be no compelling reason to desex Vizslas in regard to that individual dog’s health or temperament, on the basis of this study.
  • Desexing does not inevitably result in a healthier and more temperamentally stable dog.
  • As orthopaedic problems are not common in Vizslas, this study does not consider joint disorders and desexing, as other studies have.
  • Despite the incidence of cancer in neutered dogs, this study suggests that desexed and intact Vizslas live about the same length of time.
  • Vets need to discuss the pros and cons of desexing with clients.

 

Further Research Discussion

This kind of research is just the beginning! Further research can consider:

  • Are Vizslas special? We need to do this type of research in other breeds.
  • For all studies considering affects of desexing, age of desexing should be considered in the data collected. There are very few studies looking at life-long gonad exposure, and so conclusions on optimum age of desexing is hard to make.
  • Biological effects of removing gonads.
  • Sterilisation for dogs without gonadectomy – like vasectomies or hysterectomies (leaving ovaries).
  • Something that I have been considering for a while,” An additional potential source of confounding was that behavioural differences between sexually intact and gonadectomized dogs could have been attributable to being subjected to hospitalisation and survey at a young age, rather than to the hormonal changes conferred by gonadectomy. A prospective, randomised blinded study with a control (sham) surgery could be performed to distinguish between these 2 scenarios.”
  • More research on gonadectomies, on cancer, and on behaviour, and how they’re connected.

 

Reference:

Zink MC, Farhoody P, Elser SE, Ruffini LD, Gibbons TA, & Rieger RH (2014). Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 244 (3), 309-19 PMID: 24432963

Read the study here.

 

Image Credit: Thanks to klam101 on DeviantArt.

 

Further Reading:

Why would you NOT desex your dog???

Is desexing a cult?

Golden Retrievers: Cancer if you do, cancer if you don’t

DON’T Spay or Neuter Your Pets

New Research That Raises Questions About Neutering Recommendations

01/26/14

Advocate for Safety-Testing of Car Harnesses

Golden retriever puppy in car

In my last post, I described the two studies that I could find that illustrate the effectiveness of car safety harnesses for dogs.

What has become clear is that there is very little testing of pet safety restraints, and no safety standard.

As pet lovers, obviously, this is something we’d like changed. This is an advocacy post, encouraging you to write to your relevant body. The suggestions made here are Australian based, but you’re welcome to modify the following letters for appropriacy to your own bodies.

When writing your letter, you should go for human-safety approach, because, as a selfish species, humans normally like to protect other humans. Say, we want pet restraints tested because:

  • We need pets to be effectively restrained so they do not interfere with drivers, but also
  • Pets need to be prevented from becoming projectiles in an accident, and, as a niceity,
  • It is in the best interest of animal welfare to protect them in accidents, and save owners and bystanders the distress of an injured pet.

 

MAC / TAC

Both the Motor Accident Commission and the Traffic Accident Commission don’t mention pet restraints on their websites! You can contact the MAC through their online form.

To the Motor Accident Commission,

Re: Restraint of Pets in Motor Vehicles

Recently I was disturbed to be informed that dog car safety harnesses manufacturing and design is unregulated. As a result, many harnesses designed for dogs are inadequate in restraint, and so pose a risk to motorists.

Dog safety harnesses are important in restraining a pet from interfering with the driver and from becoming a projectile in an accident. Testing in Australia (by NRMA Insurance) and in the United States (by Centre for Pet Safety) showed that many pet harnesses designed for vehicle transport did not withstand the force of a car accident.  This means that motorists may restrain their pets with a car harness falsely believing that doing so would prevent their pet becoming a projectile in an accident.  Obviously, such an incident could cause harm to human occupants of a vehicle.

Further, there pet owners carry a level of emotional attachment to pets, and their injury or death in car accidents would be a cause of distress to passengers and onlookers.

Considering the substantial risk to human well being through unregulated car safety harnesses, I ask that you consider introducing requirements on dog car safety harnesses, including a scheme to certify harness safety through legitimate and standardised tests.

Yours sincerely,

 

RAA/RACV

The RAA have a page selling unbranded (almost certainly untested restraints) harnesses. You can email the RAA through info@raa.com.au (link).

To the RAA,

Re: Restraint of Pets in Motor Vehicles

Recently I was disturbed to be informed that dog car safety harnesses manufacturing and design is unregulated. As a result, many harnesses designed for dogs are inadequate in restraint, and so pose a risk to motorists.

Dog safety harnesses are important in restraining a pet from interfering with the driver and from becoming a projectile in an accident. Testing in Australia (by NRMA Insurance) and in the United States (by Centre for Pet Safety) showed that many pet harnesses designed for vehicle transport did not withstand the force of a car accident.  This means that motorists may restrain their pets with a car harness falsely believing that doing so would prevent their pet becoming a projectile in an accident.

While two brands of harness have been well reviewed by both tests conducted, neither of these are available through your online store, and the one type that is available online is unbranded and presumably untested in regards to its resilience to force in an accident.  Clearly, without testing, harnesses may pose a risk and cause harm to human occupants of a vehicle.

Further, there pet owners carry a level of emotional attachment to pets, and their injury or death in car accidents would be a cause of distress to passengers and onlookers.

Considering the substantial risk to human well being through unregulated car safety harnesses, I ask that you consider introducing requirements on dog car safety harnesses, including a scheme to certify harness safety through legitimate and standardised tests, and consider stocking only products that meet these standards.

Yours sincerely,

 

Choice

Choice have a page reporting on the NRMA Insurance testing.  Choice is known for providing a neutral panel to review products. You can email Choice at ausconsumer@choice.com.au (link).

To Choice,

Re: Restraint of Pets in Motor Vehicles

Upon reading your online article on car safety restraints for dogs (“Dog car harness test”, dated 18th December 2013), I was disturbed to read that many car harnesses received a ‘fail’ score, indicating that they are inadequate in restraining pets. It is unsettling to think of many pets are being transported in car safety harnesses that have been manufactured and designed with no safety checks, as these ineffectively restrained pets pose a risk to motorists.

Dog safety harnesses are important in restraining a pet from interfering with the driver and from becoming a projectile in an accident. Like the NRMA testing in Australia, safety testing in the United States (by Centre for Pet Safety) showed that many pet harnesses designed for vehicle transport did not withstand the force of a car accident.  This means that motorists may restrain their pets with a car harness falsely believing that doing so would prevent their pet becoming a projectile in an accident.  Obviously, such an incident could cause harm to human occupants of a vehicle.

Further, there pet owners carry a level of emotional attachment to pets, and their injury or death in car accidents would be a cause of distress to passengers and onlookers.

Considering the substantial risk to human well being through unregulated car safety harnesses, I hope that Choice can consider providing its own testing of car safety harnesses for pets and provide pressure to government to produce a formal standard to ensure consumer confidence in car safety harnesses designed for dogs.

Yours sincerely,

Is there any other peak bodies that deserve to receive a letter, too? Let me know in the comments.

Be an animal advocate and post one or more of these letters to the relevant parties with the aim of bettering animal welfare.

01/24/14

How safe are dog car travel harnesses?

Last year, we heard that 100% of dog car harnesses were failing safety tests.  The Center for Pet Safety is quoted as saying,”We tested them to the child safety restraint standard and we experienced a 100-percent failure rate to protect either the consumer or the dog”.

It’s a concerning claim. Many pet owners put their dogs on a harness because they want them to be safe during an accident, and yet it seems that harnesses won’t achieve these aims. So what’s a pet owner to do?

Golden retriever puppy in back seat of car.

 

Center of Pet Safety Study

Firstly, have a look at the CPS’s study.  A complete summary of CPS’s investigation can be read on this PDF, but the research methods are best summarised by this flowchart:

Click to see PDF source.

Click to see PDF source.

So, firstly, they only tested harnesses that claimed to be tested, or claimed to offer crash protection.

Then, they did ‘quasi static testing’, which is basically they pulled on the harness attachment really hard for a sustained period to see if the harness survived or not. (Watch a video of the quasi static test.)

The following products did not pass the quasi static testing:

  • USA K-9 Outfitters; Champion.
  • In the Company of Animals; Clix.
  • Coastal; EZ-Rider.
  • Snoozer; Pet Safety Harness and Adapter.

It is only if the product passed both of those initial stages that they proceeded to crash testing.

In the same PDF, a nifty little flow chart is displayed – and ultimately it lists the harness, from left to right, as best to worst (of those tested).

Crash test harness results.

So, basically, the testing concluded that the ‘best’ harness (of those tested) was the Sleepypod Clickit Utility.

A complete analysis is available on page 10 of the results.

You can find out more about the Sleepypod Clickit harness from the Sleepypod website.

 

NRMA Insurance Test

From my research, the only other test I can find was performed by NRMA Insurance, and yielded not dissimilar results: The Sleepypod Clickit Harness was rated on the top, and the Purina Roadie Harness was second.  NRMA Insurance tested 25 harnesses, and only the above two passed. That is, 92% of harnesses failed. You can read NRMA’s brief press release: Paws and Secure Your Puppy

 

But harnesses are still better than nothing…

I would like to warn against ‘giving up’ on harnesses, because most of the harnesses do stop dogs become a projectile, and injuring people in the car. Little comfort, but please do restrain your pets.

Screen shot 2014-01-15 at 8.46.34 AM

 

My choice

Personally, I have had trouble with harnesses in the car. Any of my dogs that I have tried them on walk around and around in circles, twisting up their limbs in their harness, and looking miserable and uncomfortable.

After reading the two studies above, I am glad I made the choice to crate my dogs in the car. The crates are secured in my car with tie downs to anchor points. I am very happy with my choice, and feel that it is probably the safest option for car travel, especially in light of this study.

Our next blog post will look into ways you can advocate for better harnesses.

 

Further reading: Pet Auto Safety Blog

01/22/14

The Week In Tweets – 22nd January 2014

This is our (almost) weekly segment where we review the content posted on our Twitter over the course of the week. It’s a long post! So make sure you grab a coffee and prepare yourself for some serious reading.

 

But first, here’s a picture of a koala that stopped by my place this past week. We had five days in a row over 40C (104F), and the animals, such as this koala, suffered. Koalas aren’t ‘cute and cuddly’ – they have big claws and do bite!  I cautiously gave this guy a drink… He took water from me and didn’t run away, showing how dehydrated he really was!

Koala in bushes

We had a cool change and koala climbed up a tree and then disappeared, so we can only assume that he has recovered from the hot spell.

 

Tweet of the Week

You know I’m pretty into dog science, so I’m going to ask you to complete this quick survey which will hopefully help dog adoption in the future. It’s only short, a few simple questions, and you can do it again and again (with a different picture). Thanks for helping dog science!

 

Shelters and Sheltering

Time 4 Dogs: Irreconcilable Differences…. INDEED (critical analysis of Nathan Winograd’s convictions).

Busting the overpopulation myth with fact” and “Facebook vs PetRescue – which tool is right for you?” from PetRescue.com.au.

Two from SavingPets this week: “Every dog is an individual. Every dog should matter.” and “A disaster unfolds in Brisbane“.

Evolving from YesBiscuit!.

 

Dog Training and Behaviour

My dog sleeps on my bed… And other confessions of a dog trainer from Robin K Bennett.

Training the behavioural interrupter from K9Pro.

The importance of food in dog training – a scientific approach from Companion Animal Psychology.

What type of training schedule works best for dogs? from the Canine Corner on Psychology Today.

Guessing at the mechanisms of dog aggression from DogZombie.

 

Breeds and Breding

How backcrossing works from Retrieverman.

Without a tail to sit on from Border Wars.

Danish-Swedish Farm Dogs from Piper the Basenji.

Kennel Club vs The English Bulldog – an illustrated guide.

 

Other Dog Things

Opinion: We support pet-friendly rental properties.

Glass Lillies – lifelike glass dog figurines.

Dog Mom – a story on supervising dogs and kids.

Carolina dogs, “Ancient Dogs”, and Bathroom Behaviour.

Preventing dog bites in children: An evaluation of the Blue Dog Project’s influence on parents.

Compilation of Cats Stealing Dog Beds.

 

Other Animal Things (and disturbing content)

Polycephaly – Two-Headed Animals.

Animal rape and animal brothels.

 

Instagram

Koala visitor this morning. Bandit alerted me to its presence.

My koala visitor.

Bandit with Kong.