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Tag: disorder

D-O-Gs with OCD could help further understanding of the disorder in humans

dobermanWith all the research into how the medical issues of dogs often run parallel to our own, it’s no surprise that eight obsessive-compulsive Doberman pinschers are adding to our body of knowledge about that disorder.

A new study made use of MRI brain scans and found dogs and people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have similar brain abnormalities and share certain brain characteristics.

Three years ago, researchers found the shared gene believed responsible for flank-sucking, blanket-sucking and other compulsive behavior in Dobermans.

The new study shows what’s going on in their brains is similar — at least as an MRI sees it — to what’s going on in our’s.

“We have a lot of commonality with our best friend the dog,” said study leader Niwako Ogata, an assistant professor of animal behavior at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine in Indiana.

Just as elderly dogs with the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s are being used as models to understand the degenerative disease in people, studying dogs is providing some clues into OCD, an anxiety disorder afflicting anywhere from 2 to 8 percent of Americans.

For the study, Ogata and colleagues recruited eight Doberman pinschers with CCD (canine compulsive disorder) and a control group of eight Dobermans without CCD, according to National Geographic. The team obtained MRI scans for each group and discovered that the CCD dogs had higher total brain and gray matter volumes and lower gray matter densities in certain parts of the brain. That’s similar to the structures of people brains’ with OCD.

It’s not known why both species’ brains show these features, Ogata said, but her team plans to repeat the experiment with more dogs and more breeds.

The team chose Dobermans because of the prevalence of CCD in the breed. About  28 percent of  Dobermans in the U.S. are afflicted.

People with OCD often perform the same rituals over and over again, like washing and rewashing their hands and locking and relocking doors. In dogs, common compulsive behaviors include paw-licking and tail-chasing.

Ogata, whose study was published online in April in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, said the study provides a better idea of “”how brains develop, and when and how genes interact with [their] environment to cause some behavior problems for both humans and dogs.”

Doggie OCD may provide clues for humans

Scientists studying compulsive behaviors in Doberman pinschers have located a gene they believe is associated with OCD — a finding that could lead to pinpointing a genetic source of obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans.

In dogs, compulsive behavior includes tail chasing, licking their legs until they develop infections, and pacing and circling — canine versions, perhaps, of repeated hand washing and other behaviors displayed by the 2.2 million Americans estimated to be affected by the disorder.

The Doberman study was done by researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and the Broad Institute, according to the Boston Globe.

Scientists took samples from 92 Doberman pinschers that displayed compulsive behavior. Dogs with the disorder compulsively suck their flanks or blankets. Researchers also used samples from 68 normal dogs, and did a genome-wide scan, searching for spots that varied between the two samples.

They found a genetic hot spot in dogs with the compulsive behavior — within in a gene called Cadherin 2, known to be active in the brain and in a family of genes recently implicated in autism.

Dr. Dennis Murphy, a laboratory chief in the National Institute of Mental Health, said he is working to follow the research by studying the same gene in more than 300 human patients with OCD, 400 of their relatives, and about 600 people without OCD.

“Identifying a specific gene that could be a candidate gene for a complex disorder like OCD is a gift to have,’’ Murphy said. “This might be a quick route in to a meaningful gene that just could be involved in the human disorder, as well.’’

Franken seeks more service dogs for war vets

frankenWe liked him as a comedian, and early indications are we’ll like him as a politician — not that we see too vast a difference between the two.

In his first piece of legislation as Minnesota’s junior senator, Al Franken is trying to expand the number of service dogs available to wounded veterans.

In an opinion piece published Monday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Franken proposed a pilot program that will train “a statistically significant number of dogs,” put them to work and measure the benefits they provide to veterans living with devastating war injuries.

Franken believes the dogs’ companionship provides invaluable health benefits — both physical and emotional — to veterans suffering from debilitating injuries and psychological disorders.

The service dogs will help “reduce the suicide rate among veterans, decrease the number of hospitalizations and lower the cost of medications and human care,” he said.

Franken’s said the legislation was inspired by a meeting he had last January with a wounded former Iraqi intelligence officer and his golden retriever, “Tuesday.”

“Service dogs like Tuesday can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds,” wrote Franken.

Franken said service dogs typically cost about $20,000 to train and another $5,000 to place with a veteran — a cost that is well worth the investment.

“It is my strong belief that a service dog will more than pay for itself over its life, and my bill is designed to determine the return on investment with a pilot program that provides service dogs to hundreds of veterans,” said Franken.

Franken’s bill would be his first piece of legislation since officially becoming a senator on July 7.

Scientists trace golden retriever disorder

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Scientists in Sweden have tracked down the source of sensory ataxic neuropathy (SAN) — a recently identified neurological disorder in golden retrievers.

The disease strikes goldens in puppyhood, causing them to move in an uncoordinated manner and have sensory deficits.

The researchers were able to trace back all affected offspring on the maternal side, over more than 10 generations, to a female that lived during the 1970s, confirming that SAN is caused by a mutation in the mitochondrial DNA.

The study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet was published May 29 in the journal PLoS Genetics.

The researchers showed that about five percent of the golden retriever population in Sweden carries the mutation causing SAN — and that, with proper screening by breeders, the disorder could be eliminated.

“This is a good example of how a close collaboration between clinicians and geneticists led to a rapid detection of a harmful mutation that can now be eliminated from this dog population to reduce suffering and disease,” said co-author Karin Hultin Jäderlund.

Come again? Dog hearing aid is in the works

A University of Cincinnati researcher says the canine hearing aid he is developing may be ready for the market by the end of this year.

Pete Scheifele began working on a hearing aid for dogs after his own 17-year-old dog — a miniature pinscher/beagle mix — lost his hearing.

The highly trained dog has appeared on television and performed for schools and didn’t seem to mind wearing the prototype. In fact, he would seek it out and nudge it when he wasn’t wearing it, Scheifele says.

Researchers are now working on modifications to make the prototype version smaller and more comfortable, according to a report in DVM 360.

The hearing aid would only work on dogs with acquired hearing loss, according to Scheifele, Director of UC’s Bioacoustics and Canine Audiology Clinic.

Scheifele says he is in discussions for commercialization of the prototype and hopes it might be available for sale later this year.

(Photo: Courtesy of University of Cincinnati)

RSPCA pulls out of Crufts show

Crufts, the UK’s most prestigious and popular dog show, is taking some heat as it prepares for its 118th annual show next spring.

Yesterday, the RSPCA, which has long operated booths at Crufts, announced it was pulling out of the show because of concerns that the show is contributing to thousands of pedigree dogs suffering from genetic defects, purposefully bred into them in the name of looks.

And the BBC, which has broadcast the show for 40 years, is also thought to be on the verge of deciding whether to halt its coverage.

The RSPCA’s decision to relinquish its stand at Crufts in March next year follows a BBC documentary, broadcast last month, that highlighted breeding practices that result in unhealthy genetic side-effects.

Chief veterinary adviser for the RSPCA, Mark Evans, called for a shift in emphasis away from looks and towards health, welfare and temperament.

“Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria actively encourage both the intentional breeding of deformed and disabled dogs and the inbreeding of closely related animals,” he said. “From a dog health and welfare perspective, such shows are fundamentally flawed and do our much-loved pedigree dogs no favors. Intentionally breeding deformed and disabled animals is morally unjustifiable and has to stop.”

The BBC program, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” featured boxers with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs that were unable to mate.

Mike Flynn, chief superintendent of the SSPCA, said hundreds of Scottish owners had called the organization after the program featured a Cavalier King Charles spaniel with syringomylia – a breeding-related condition where the brain is pushed back into the spinal chord.

The program documented other unhealthy changes, brought about by inbreeding and a quest for arbitrary standards for what certain breeds should look like: Dachsund’s have been elongated, and their legs made smaller, leading to serious back problems. They have difficulty running and jumping and are prone to epilepsy and deafness. Bulldogs have seen their muzzles shortened, creating breathing problems, and their heads have become broader; most now have to be born by Caesarean section.

“The Kennel Club is dedicated to improving the health and welfare of dogs through responsible breeding,” Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokeswoman, said in response to the developments. “The fact that the RSPCA continues to make such unhelpful statements … is extremely regrettable but we will continue to endeavour to work with them despite their stated position, for the benefit of dogs.”