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Dog’s body size and shape could indicate a greater bone tumor risk

The findings that bone tumors are more common in certain breeds and conformations indicates that a dog’s genetics play a role in bone tumor development. This link between the biology of conformation and the biology of bone tumors in dogs provides valuable opportunities for further study into what causes bone tumors to develop, and how they could be treated in the future.

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Osteosarcoma is a painful and aggressive bone tumor in dogs that is known to be more common in certain breeds than others. New research has now confirmed that larger breeds, such as Rottweiler, Great Dane and Rhodesian Ridgeback, have a greater risk of osteosarcoma than smaller breeds, as well as showing that breeds with shorter skulls and legs have lower osteosarcoma risk. The findings could inform future breed health reforms as well as studies into the way tumors develop from normal bone.

The study led by the University of Bristol Veterinary School in collaboration with Cardiff University and Royal Veterinary College (RVC) London, and using data from VetCompass™ and Veterinary Pathology Group (VPG) histology, looked at the epidemiology surrounding which dog breeds get osteosarcoma, and what this means for canine welfare. This study also shows the huge benefits from studying dogs as a model to study this cancer. The findings are published in Canine Medicine and Genetics today [10 March].

The study included 1,756 laboratory-confirmed osteosarcoma cases in dogs compared with 905,211 dogs under veterinary care in the VetCompass database during 2016.

The research team found twenty-seven breeds, mainly larger breeds, had an increased risk of osteosarcoma compared to crossbreeds. Thirty breeds, mainly smaller breeds, including Jack Russell, Border Terrier, Bichon Frise, French Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had reduced risk of osteosarcoma compared to crossbreeds.

The study also compared various measures of body mass and leg length, and confirmed previous findings that heavier dogs with longer legs and longer skull shapes are at greatest risk of bone tumours. The results could inform breed health reforms, especially in predisposed breeds such as the Rottweiler, Great Dane and Rhodesian Ridgeback, Mastiff and German Pointer. Whereas previous studies have identified high-risk breeds for bone tumours, this paper is novel by being able to identify breeds at lowest risk because of the huge size of the study population. The breeds identified here could be researched and compared to recognise novel genetic differences which cause bone tumours.

The findings that bone tumors are more common in certain breeds and conformations indicates that a dog’s genetics play a role in bone tumor development. This link between the biology of conformation and the biology of bone tumors in dogs provides valuable opportunities for further study into what causes bone tumors to develop, and how they could be treated in the future.

Osteosarcoma can affect any dog breed. However, owners of high-risk breeds should be especially alert for signs of the disease. These include lameness and painful, bony swelling and dog owners should contact their vet if concerned.

Dr Grace Edmunds, Clinical Veterinary Research Fellow and lead author at Bristol Veterinary School, said: “As a vet, I am always focussed on improving animal welfare by looking outwards to find new treatments for their diseases. As osteosarcoma also affects adolescents, it is hugely exciting that by understanding the biology of bone tumors, and working with my collaborators in human cancer research, we may make a difference to both canine and human cancer patients.”

Dr Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animals Epidemiology at the RVC, added: “There are increasing concerns about the wisdom of breeding dogs with extreme body shapes such as flat-faced breeds like French Bulldogs or breeds with long backs such as Dachshunds.

“This study highlights the health risks from another extreme body shape – large body size. The breeds at highest risk of osteosarcoma were large-sized breeds such as Rottweiler, Great Dane and Mastiff. To reduce the risks of picking a dog that may develop bone cancer, owners may need to consider choosing puppies from smaller-sized parents of these giant breeds or opting for different smaller breeds instead.”

Professor Rachel Errington at Cardiff University explained: “As a human cancer researcher at the School of Medicine this study shows that we can propose similar questions in human and canine disease with the aim of determining new therapies and diagnostics for both and this provides an exciting opportunity of joining forces across a diverse group of expertise.”

The research team is currently developing a project that will sequence certain genes in at-risk and protected breeds for osteosarcoma, with the aim of identifying those genetic pathways that cause bone tumors to develop from normal bone. Identifying such pathways will allow new drugs, or older, repurposed drugs, to be used to see if the outcomes when treating bone tumors in dogs can be improved.

Drs Grace Edmunds and Helen Winter, members of the study team, will be engaging with owners of dogs with cancer and younger patients who have had cancer as part of a One Health approach, and they would welcome contact from patients or dog owners who would like to participate in this research.

Pet Care

5 Ways to give your cat a purr-fect life

For all the companionship, humor and happiness cats bring, they deserve a purr-fect life, full of tasty treats and quality time with their favorite humans.

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Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

With playful and spunky personalities, cats are known for keeping people entertained. Whether they’re breaking the internet in the latest viral video or making pet parents smile with a spontaneous snuggle, feline friends can be a constant source of joy.

For all the companionship, humor and happiness cats bring, they deserve a purr-fect life, full of tasty treats and quality time with their favorite humans.

For more ways to treat your cat and tips to help make your cat’s life paw-some, visit TemptationsTreats.com.

Provide a Comfortable Environment
To help make sure time with your cats is fun and enjoyable, create an environment they’ll feel comfortable in. Give cats a designated space to call their own, including beds and plenty of toys to help them feel safe and at home. When they’re more comfortable in their space, they’ll likely be more inclined to snuggle and play.

Cuddle Up
Cats are independent creatures and sometimes keep cuddling on their own terms. To encourage snuggles in a way both cats and their humans can enjoy, try offering goodies they’ll love. It can be served as a snack, given by hand or used as a cat food topper to make mealtimes more exciting. When given by hand, it gives cats and their owners a unique bonding experience and allows for more quality time together.

Make Time for Play
Every day should include time for fun. With their attentive nature, many cats enjoy mentally and physically engaging activities. Try finding toys your cats enjoy, like a feather on a string, or throw around a stuffed mouse to give your cats some pouncing practice.

Feed Your Cat’s Feline Instincts
To satisfy your cats’ natural carnivorous feline instincts, consider offering a satisfying snack treats. Try hiding the treats around the house and letting your cats prowl and hunt them down like easy prey.

Be Consistent
Many cats are creatures of habit and value consistency, so create a daily routine to help your pets feel more comfortable. Try offering meals at the same time each day or scheduling consistent time to kick back and relax with your furry friends each evening.

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Pet Care

How to help manage pet separation anxiety

To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and embrace alone time, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmart’s consulting animal behaviorist and separation anxiety expert.

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Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam from Unsplash.com

For more than a year, working from home and keeping social circles small due to COVID-19 has meant people have been able to spend more time with their pets. However, as more people are vaccinated and restrictions loosen across the country, it’s likely many are spending less time at home with their pets. As a result, pet parents should be prepared to spot the signs of separation anxiety and help their pets manage.

When left at home alone, pets can exhibit behaviors that could indicate they’re experiencing separation anxiety. It’s not a new problem, but it can become more pronounced as pet parents begin to spend less time at home, whether they’re returning to work full-time or just leaving the house more often. It may be especially challenging for pets that found their forever homes during the pandemic, as being alone may be a stark contrast to what they’ve become accustomed to. In these cases, pets may struggle to learn how to cope with being by themselves.

To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and embrace alone time, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmart’s consulting animal behaviorist and separation anxiety expert.

How to Identify Separation Anxiety

Changes in behavior are some of the most common indicators of separation anxiety. These behaviors are coping mechanisms and can include excessive barking or whining, destruction near exit points or windows, having accidents around the house, hyper salivating, pacing, decreased appetite and depression. To better understand what your pet is experiencing, consider setting up a video camera when you leave to see how he or she behaves when you’re not there.

Ways to Prepare Your Pet for Separation

Unpredictability has been shown to add stress for many animals, including dogs, Coppola said. Routines, however, can help many pets cope with stressful situations. Because a vacation or long weekend getaway involves a change in your pet’s routine, these seemingly small changes can make him or her susceptible to separation anxiety. If you know change is coming, slowly introduce your pet to the idea of being alone beforehand to help your four-legged friend prepare. Start by taking short trips outside your home without your pet – even if just for a few minutes – and consider leaving treats or toys to help make the alone time more enjoyable.

When you are ready to leave the house, set up a cozy, inviting space for your pet, where he or she can’t destroy items or get hurt trying to escape. Consider a non-carpeted area in case of accidents or install a doggie door to allow for going outside when necessary. Prior to any period of alone time, mentally and physically engaging your pet by going for a walk or run, or working on quick trick training, can make it more likely he or she spends at least some of the time you’re gone resting.

While you’re gone,  Coppola recommends providing your pets with enrichment activities such as puzzles, chews and calming aids.

Solutions for Coping with Anxiety

If your pet is excessively barking or exhibiting destructive behaviors, never punish him or her and avoid expressing disappointment or frustration, Coppola said. It is understandable to feel this way, but it can upset your pet further and add to the stress he or she may already be feeling. Instead, spend time having fun together when you are home to help ease the transition by gradually introducing your pet to the amount of time left alone.

Learn more and find additional solutions to help deal with separation anxiety at petsmart.com/newnormal.

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Pet Care

Make nutrition a priority for your pet

Providing your cherished companion with a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.

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Photo by @chewy from Unsplash.com

As a dog or cat parent, you are responsible for your pet’s well-being and making good decisions about what’s best for him or her. Providing your cherished companion with a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.

A balanced pet food recipe formulated with high-quality ingredients provides your pet with the optimal mix of the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals he or she needs to thrive. For premium quality, look for recipes that are minimally processed; made with fresh meats, poultry and fish; and contain no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.

While the quality of ingredients is important, it’s also crucial to choose a recipe that is specific to your pet’s life stage and breed size. This helps ensure it contains the right balance of nutrients to meet your pet’s specific needs, including hip and joint support and weight management as he or she gets older.

Puppy and kitten recipes are specially formulated with higher levels of protein and essential fats to help support the needs of growing pets. Conversely, adult and senior pets may benefit from diets that are lower in calories and fats to help maintain a healthy weight as their metabolisms and activity levels slow.

Large breed dogs may also benefit from ingredients in their diets like glucosamine, chondroitin and green-lipped mussels to support healthy hips and joints as they age. Smaller kibble and breath freshening ingredients like parsley and peppermint are often well-suited for small breed dogs.

By choosing carefully balanced pet foods made with premium ingredients, you can take nutrition to another level for your pet. One example is Now Fresh recipes for dogs and cats. Each kibble recipe is made using fresh, de-boned muscle meat and no by-product or meat meals. The recipes also feature more than 20 nutrient-rich superfood ingredients.

Consider the important benefits superfoods can provide your pet and look for ingredients such as:

  • Whole nest-laid eggs: Eggs are a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids in the optimal amounts dogs and cats need.
  • Pumpkin: Rich in beta-carotene and prebiotic fiber, pumpkin helps support healthy digestion.
  • Blueberries: A great source of essential fiber and manganese, blueberries are also rich in antioxidants that help support healthy immune systems.
  • Pomegranate: This fruit is rich in antioxidants and a good source of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K.
  • Papaya: A tropical fruit, papaya is a natural source of digestive enzymes.
  • Cranberries: With antioxidants to support immunity and antimicrobial properties, which can help support urinary tract health.
  • Strawberries: An excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, B vitamins, dietary fiber and essential minerals.

When selecting the right food for your pet, look for a statement on the packaging that confirms it has been formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. An option like Now Fresh also clearly indicates on the package which life stage and breed size the recipe has been formulated for.

Learn more about pet nutrition at NowFresh.com.

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