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Tag: sickness

A drug to make your dog live longer?

antiaging

Two University of Washington scientists think it might be possible to slow the aging process in canines and are launching a pilot study with 30 dogs to see if the drug rapamycin significantly extends their lifespans.

The researchers, using $200,000 in seed money from the University of Washington, plan to use pets, not laboratory animals, for the initial study, and recruit volunteer dogs — or at least dogs whose owners volunteer them — for larger scale studies in the future.

Daniel Promislow, an evolutionary geneticist, and Matthew Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist, say the study is aimed at determining whether rapamycin could lead to longer lives for dogs — as studies have shown is the case when it’s used on yeast, fruit flies, worms and mice.

“We’re not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets,” said Kaeberlein. “But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.”

In the pilot study, 30 large, middle-aged dogs will be involved — half receiving low doses of rapamycin, half receiving placebos.

The researchers say that subsequent studies will seek to enroll pet dogs from across the country.

Kaeberlein and Promislow hosted a meeting in Seattle last week where experts from across the country discussed the drug rapamycin and its possible effects on the health and longevity of dogs, the Seattle Times reported.

Currently used along with other medications to prevent rejection in organ-transplant patients, rapamycin has been called a promising anti-aging drug — though there have been no studies involving humans.

But almost 50 laboratory studies have shown that the compound can delay the onset of some diseases and degenerative processes and restore vigor to elderly animals, extending life spans by 9 to 40 percent.

Rapamycin functions, in part, by inactivating a protein that promotes cell growth. As a result, cells grow more slowly, which retards the spread of cancer.

Promislow, who has two elderly dogs of his own, noted that even if the drug doesn’t increase the life span of dogs, it could serve to keep them healthy longer. “We’re trying to understand why some dogs age better than others, and help all dogs age in a better way,” he said.

The drug has been shown to have serious side effects, including poor wound healing and an increased risk of diabetes, when used at the high doses required for organ transplant patients.

But the low doses used in anti-aging research with mice and other lab animals cause few side effects.

There have been no large-scale human trials. Studying how the drug affects dogs — who suffer many of the same old-age ailments as their masters — makes it possible to explore the possible benefits of rapamycin both more quickly and at a lesser cost.

If it does turn out to be a sort of  fountain of youth — for dogs, humans, or both — the potential profits would be enormous.

“I think it’s worth a go, not just from what it can teach us about humans, but for the sake of the animals themselves,” said University of Alabama Biology Department Chairman Steven Austad, an expert in aging research who is not involved in the project. “It may not work in dogs, but if it did, boy, it’s going to be huge.”

According to the Seattle Times article, drug companies aren’t very interested in rapamycin because it’s no longer under patent.

But the researchers are hoping dog lovers, dog-food companies and some foundations might be willing to contribute to further research.

They’ve set up a website, dogagingproject.com,where people can donate and sign their dogs up to take part in the research.

“Given how I feel about my pets, I see this as a unique project where there’s a real potential for citizen science,” Kaeberlein said. “I think it would be great if pet owners who are really interested in improving the health of their animals would help fund this work.”

(Photos: UW scientists Matt Kaeberlein, with his dog Dobby, and Dan Promislow, with his dog Frisbee; by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Happy National Hairball Awareness Day

It’s not too often we cover cats at ohmidog!,   but National Hairball Awareness Day (it’s today, if you didn’t know) isn’t strictly about cats.

Dogs get hairballs too — as do humans, and cud-chewing animals, such as cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer, and antelope.

As pets go, though, cats are more prone, and with almost 90 million U.S. cat owners we feel it’s our duty to pass on these hairball-alleviating tips — not just to avoid having to clean them up, but because they can pose dangers to the animal by blocking food from passing through the intestines.

The folks who make the FURminator offer the following tips, chief among them of course, buying their products:

- The more you groom your cat, the less, he or she will groom his or herself, making hairballs less likely. In addition to deshedding tools, there are shampoos that claim to reduce shedding.

- A little butter or pumpkin added to food can decrease the likelihood of hairballs, the butter helping grease the way, the pumpkin’s fiber helping to get things moving.

- Keep your cat well hydrated, placing water bowls throughought the house.

- Laxative supplements from your vet can help with chronic hairball problems.

If you want to learn even more about hairballs (and we would hope you don’t), the National Museum of Health and Medicine has a webpage devoted to them, and, should you want to make the trip to Washington (and we really, really hope you don’t)  there’s a human hairball on permanent display in the museum.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine has 24 veterinary and 3 human hairballs or “trichobezoars” in its anatomical collection. To commemorate National Hairball Awareness Day on April 27, 2006, the museum featured a temporary display of 10 of these hairballs to explore the myths and realities behind these medical curiosities. Included were hairballs from a steer, two oxen, three cows, a calf, horse, and a chicken.

As for our picture above, rather than be so tasteless as to confront you with the real thing, we’ve chosen a crocheted hairball from the collection of Fluffy Flowers.  If you’d like to learn how to make your own (and, once again, we’re hoping you don’t), you can find a tutorial here.

For dogs, slaughter continues in Baghdad


“While human beings in Iraq were killing each other in huge numbers, they ignored the dogs, which in turn multiplied at an alarming rate,” the New York Times reported last week.

Now stray dogs are such a menace that municipal workers are hunting them down and slaughtering them — about 10,000 in Baghdad just since December.

“With fewer bombs going off and hardly any bodies being dumped anymore, the dogs are perhaps the biggest problem on the filthy and rubble-strewn streets of Baghdad. Packs of strays scare schoolchildren and people who get up at dawn to go to work. They gather at open-air butcher shops where customers choose their meat from flocks of live sheep.

“Some people believe that the dogs spread disease, not a difficult case to make in a society that generally shuns dogs as pets, believing them to be contrary to Islamic edicts on personal cleanliness.

“Thus a relative peace has changed priorities, and not just in Baghdad. The holy Shiite city of Karbala was so overwhelmed with stray dogs last year that officials there offered 6,000 dinars ($5.30) for each animal caught and handed over to the municipality. The dogs were shot and buried en masse.”

In Baghdad, dogs are killed with rotten raw meat laced with strychnine. On the outskirts of town, articularly around the city’s sprawling garbage dumps, the dogs are shot. By the time the cmapgin ends this month, perhaps 20,000 dogs will have been exterminated, said Shaker Fraiyeh of the ministry’s veterinary services company.

“Our work may be against animal rights, but there is a more important issue, public health,” said Dr. Fraiyeh, a veterinarian in his 30s.

Abdul-Karim Ismail, a veterinarian with the state-owned company dealing with the dogs, said building and maintaining animal shelters and introducing spay/neuter programs to control Baghdad’s dog population are considered too costly and complicated in a nation where people had so many more pressing needs.

Some stray dogs have been fortunate enough to find new homes outside Iraq. S.P.C.A. International, a Washington-based charity, began “Operation Baghdad Pups” in 2007 to help American soldiers adopt and take home stray dogs they befriended while serving in Iraq.

Outbreaks close shelter, kennels

Several dogs have died from a rare illness that forced a Brooklyn animal shelter to close for nearly a week, the Associated Press reports.

Animal Care & Control of New York City says the dogs at the Brooklyn shelter are no longer in any danger from contracting the disease known as Strep Zoo. The shelter, closed last week, reopened Monday.

Meanwhile, in Colorado Springs, an outbreak of dog flu citywide has left two dog day care centers temporarily closed. Lucky Dog Resort and Training and Camp Bow Wow both closed their doors to ensure a string of the dog flue was completely cleaned out, according to KRDO-TV.

“If they’re (dogs) around a dog who’s in the contagious period, which is usually the first two to five days of the infection, they can definitely contract it,” said Dr. Susan Bloss of Cheyenne Mountain Animal Hospital.  The dog flu is a respiratory virus with no vaccine. Although it’s rarely fatal, Bloss said, your dog can still get very sick. All it takes is a sneeze from one dog, and a sniff from another to contract it.