Tag: The Smithsonian

Can dogs count?

The answer may surprise you!

Dogs use a part of their brain for processing numbers. But more than that, dogs use a similar brain region to process numbers as we humans do.

I found that fascinating.

This was one the results of reading a very interesting article published by The Smithsonian magazine earlier on in December.

Let me share it with you.

ooOOoo

Dogs’ Brains Naturally Process Numbers, Just Like Ours

Scientists stuck 11 dogs in fMRI scanners to see if their brains had a knack for quantity

How many sheep? (Arbutus Photography / flickr)

Katherine J. Wu,   smithsonianmag.com
Dec. 19, 2019,

Sit. Stay. Fetch. Count?

Sort of. A team of scientists has found that dogs naturally process numbers in a similar brain region as humans, reports Virginia Morell for Science. While that doesn’t mean mutts can do math, it seems they have an innate sense of quantity, and may take notice when you put fewer treats in their bowl, according to a study published this week in Biology Letters.

Importantly, while other research has delved into similar stunts that scientists coaxed out of canines by rewarding them with treats, the new study suggests a knack for numbers is present in even untrained dogs—and could have deep evolutionary roots. This supports the idea that the ways in which animals process quantity in their brains may be “ancient and widespread among species,” Michael Beran, a psychologist at Georgia State University who wasn’t involved in the research, tells Morell.

To test pooches’ numerical prowess, a team led by Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, scanned the brains of 11 dogs of different breeds as they gazed at screens serially flashing different numbers of variably-sized dots. As the images flipped rapidly past, the researchers looked for activity in a region of the canine brain called the parietotemporal cortex, analogous to humans’ parietal cortex, which is known to help people rapidly process numbers. In humans, this region lights up on a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner when numbers start to vary—a sign that cells are working hard to puzzle through the difference.

Something similar seems to apply to canines, the team found. When dogs hopped into the scanner, most of their parietotemporal cortices showed more activity when the numbers of dots flashed onto the screen changed (for instance, three small dots followed by ten big dots) than when they stayed the same (four small dots followed by four large dots).

The behavior wasn’t universal: 3 out of the researchers’ 11 test subjects failed to discern the difference. But it’s not surprising that the rest did, Krista Macpherson, a canine cognition researcher at Western University in Canada who wasn’t involved in the study, tells Morell.

Of course, approximating quantities of dots isn’t the same as solving complex mathematical equations, as our brains are equipped to do. But both behaviors stem from an inherent sense for numbers—something that appears to span the 80-million-year evolutionary gap between dogs and humans, the findings suggest.

Understanding how that basic ability might evolve into “higher” mathematical skills is a clear next step, study author Lauren Aulet, a psychologist at Emory University, says in a statement. Until then, we humans can count on the fact that we have plenty in common with our canine companions.

ooOOoo

An inherent sense for numbers. Wow!

This is yet another aspect of the relationship we have with our pooches that is deeper and closer than I imagined, and I’m sure I don’t only speak for myself.

The early beginnings.

Science has maybe found a clue to the ancestor of the dog and the wolf.

For an animal that means so much to us humans, the origins of the dog are still uncertain. Indeed, as this interesting article shows, the origins of the wolf are uncertain.

ooOOoo

Was This 18,000-Year-Old Puppy Frozen in Siberian Permafrost the Ancestor of Wolves, Dogs or Both?

DNA tests on the well-preserved remains can’t determine whether the little canine was wild or domestic

(Sergey Fedorov/NEFU)

By Jason Daley, smithsonianmag.com
Dec. 3, 2019, 10 a.m.”>December 3, 2019

Meet Dogor, an 18,000-year-old pup unearthed in Siberian permafrost whose name means “friend” in the Yakut language. The remains of the prehistoric pup are puzzling researchers because genetic testing shows it’s not a wolf or a dog, meaning it could be an elusive ancestor of both.

Locals found the remains in the summer of 2018 in a frozen lump of ground near the Indigirka River, according to the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk. Parts of the animal are incredibly well-preserved, including its head, nose, whiskers, eyelashes and mouth, revealing that it still had its milk teeth when it died. Researchers suggest the animal was just two months old when it passed, though they do not know the cause of death.

The pup is so well-preserved that researchers at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Sweden were able to sequence the animal’s DNA using a piece of rib bone. The results found that Dogor was male, but even after two rounds of analysis the team could not determine whether he was a dog or a wolf.

“It’s normally relatively easy to tell the difference between the two,” David Stanton, a Centre for Palaeogenetics research fellow, tells Amy Woodyatt at CNN. “We have a lot of data from it already, and with that amount of data, you’d expect to tell if it was one or the other. The fact that we can’t might suggest that it’s from a population that was ancestral to both—to dogs and wolves.”

The find is exciting, regardless of whether Dogor turns out to be a common canine ancestor, an early dog, or an early wolf. Hannah Knowles at The Washington Post reports that Dogor comes from an interesting time in canine evolution, when wolf species were dying out and early dogs were beginning to emerge.

“As you go back in time, as you get closer to the point that dogs and wolves converge, [it becomes] harder to tell between the two,” Stanton tells Knowles.

(Sergey Fedorov/NEFU)

The history of just how and when dogs split from wolves is unresolved. There’s a general agreement among scientists that modern gray wolves and dogs split from a common ancestor 15,000 to 40,000 years ago, explains Brian Handwerk previously for Smithsonian.com. How dogs became dogs, however, is contested. Some research suggests that dogs were domesticated by humans once, while other studies have found dogs were domesticated multiple times. Exactly where in the world wild canines became man’s best friend is also disputed. The origin of the human-animal bond has been traced to Mongolia, China and Europe.

Scientists disagree about how dogs ended up paired with people, too. Some suspect humans captured wolf pups and actively domesticated them. Others suggest that a strain of “friendly,” less aggressive wolves more or less domesticated themselves by hanging out near humans, gaining access to their leftover food.

Dorgor’s DNA could help unravel these mysteries. The team plans to do a third round of DNA testing that may help definitively place Dogor in the canine family tree, report Daria Litvinova and Roman Kutuko at the Associated Press.

ooOOoo

This is incredibly interesting, don’t you think?

Hopefully I will hear of that third round of DNA testing and, if so, will most definitely share it with you.

More calculating your dog’s age.

Another trip round the buoy!

When I first published the post How old is your dog? I found it a little confusing plus the Input-Output section was screwed up.

So I was pleased when the Smithsonian Smart News published a different version of what is the same news.

Here it is:

ooOOoo

Calculate Your Dog’s Age With This New, Improved Formula

A study of the epigenetic clock in Labradors shows calculating a dog’s age is much more complicated than just multiplying by seven.

The study involved 104 Labrador retrievers between four weeks and 16 years old. (Herwig Kavallar via Wikimedia Commons under Public Domain)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com
November 19, 2019

One dog year is not equivalent to seven human years, despite widespread use of the ratio for calculating the age of canine companions. Presumably, the ratio is based on the average lifespan of dogs being 10 years and humans being 70 years, it’s not quite so simple. The formula is not based on any real science and it was debunked by veterinarians years ago.

But geneticists digging into the mysteries of ageing have developed a new calculation to understand how our canine companions’ ages correspond to our own.

(You will probably have to go across to the original article for this to work. PH)

To understand how dogs age, the team looked at a phenomenon called DNA methylation. As mammals get older, their DNA picks up methyl groups that “stick” to their DNA. While these groups don’t change the DNA itself, they attach to the genetic molecule and can turn certain genes on or off, which is an important part of epigenetics, or the way environmental factors cause certain genes to express themselves.

Methlyation occurs at a relatively steady rate as humans age, which allows researchers to estimate a person’s age, a process they’ve dubbed the “epigenetic clock.”

In the new paper on dog years, which has yet to be peer reviewed and is currently posted on the preprint server bioRxiv, a team led by Tina Wang of the University of California, San Diego, compared the epigenetic clocks in people to canines to better understand the genes associated with aging. They picked dogs because most live in the same environments as humans and also receive some degree of medical care, like humans do.

The team looked at methylation rates in 104 Labrador retrievers between the ages of four weeks and 16 years old, reports Michelle Starr at Science Alert. They then compared them to published methylation profiles of 320 humans from age one to 103. (They also compared both to 133 mice methylation profiles.)

It turns out some parts of a dog’s life follows the same pattern as humans, though other longevity milestones don’t link up quite as nicely. For instance, the methylation rate showed a seven-week-old pup corresponds to a 9-month-old human baby, and both species begin to get their first teeth at this time.

But the comparison breaks down after early puppyhood. The dog clock ticks much faster with pups speeding through puberty and reaching sexual maturity within their first year. Then, the dog’s epigenetic clock slows down as the dog ages, and begins to match up with humans again in its later years.

Overall, the average 12-year lifespan of a Labrador lined up with the average worldwide lifespan of humans, which is about 70 years.

While the study complicates the concept of “dog years,” it does show that the animals experience similar methylation processes as humans.

“We already knew that dogs get the same diseases and functional declines of aging that humans do, and this work provides evidence that similar molecular changes are also occurring during aging,” Matt Kaeberlein, a biogerontologist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, tells Virginia Morell at Science. “It’s a beautiful demonstration of the conserved features of the epigenetic age clocks shared by dogs and humans.”

The new formula for a dog’s ages based on the study requires a little more math than multiplying by seven. You multiply the natural logarithm of a dog’s age by 16, then add 31 [human_age = 16ln(dog_age) + 31].

According to the formula, a 2-year-old dog is the equivalent of a 42-year-old human, but things slow down after that. A 5-year-old dog is the equivalent of a 56.75 year old human, and a 10-year-old dog is the equivalent of 67.8-year-old person.

Evolutionary biologist Steve Austad of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who was not involved in the study, tells Morell that he’s not too surprised that the epigenetic clock applies to dogs, too. He says that by studying different dog breeds with different lifespans the researchers may find some interesting results.

This formula is not the last word on dog years, however, especially since it only looked at one breed. Erika Mansourian, writing for the American Kennel Club, reports that the American Veterinary Medical Association says the accurate way to calculate dog years for a medium-sized dog is to assume the first year is equivalent to 15 years and age two adds another nine years. After that, each year of a dog’s life is equivalent to five human years. It doesn’t perfectly line up with the new formula, but both acknowledge that dogs age rapidly in their first years of life.

Whatever the case, dogs’ lives are all too short. That may be why people are excited about a project by the Dog Aging Project, which is currently recruiting 10,000 pets and their owners to participate in a new study that will look at the dogs’ health, gut microbes, diet and exercise to understand aging. And 500 lucky dogs will test out a new drug that may help slow the aging process, which could help us someday, too.

ooOOoo

I hope you found it worthwhile to publish what is, in essence, a duplication of the same story!

What rubbish!

No dog is ever ugly!

There was a recent item on The Smithsonian ‘Smart News’ that spoke of a dog winning the prize as the world’s ugliest dog!

I’m sure it was to gain headlines because no dog can be described as ugly.

Read the article yourself.

ooOOoo

Meet Scamp the Tramp, the World’s Ugliest Dog

Scamp took home the top prize in an annual competition that seeks to promote dog adoption

Yvonne Morones embraces her dog Scamp the Tramp after he wins the World’s Ugliest Dog contest. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Brigit Katz
smithsonian.com
June 24, 2019
Nineteen canine competitors flocked to California’s Sonoma County last Friday, all pawing for the coveted title of World’s Ugliest Dog. Among them was Willie Wonka, an American Staffordshire Terrier mix born with twisted legs and deformed front paws; Rascal Deux, a hairless, dentally challenged “mutant”; and Josie, an eight-time veteran of the contest, which has been taking place for nearly three decades, with bulging eyes and a too-long tongue. But only one pooch could be crowned the ugliest of them all. And that pooch was Scamp the Tramp.

Scamp, according to Derrick Bryson Taylor of the New York Times, is a dog of unknown breeding, with a plump body and two-inch-long legs. He has Yoda-like ears and wild hair that grows naturally in dreadlocks. His tongue lolls perpetually. Now, Scamp and his human, Yvonne Morones, are the recipients of a towering trophy and $1,500.

“He’s Scamp the Champ, no longer Scamp the Tramp,” Morones quips in an interview with Andrew Beale of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

The Ugliest Dog Contest’s pool of competitors was especially strong this year, so much so that the judges had a hard time picking just one pup. Once they had narrowed the contestants down to four, the judges asked the audience to cheer loudly for their favorite. Scamp was the clear winner.

Climbing to the top of the ugliest dog totem pole is no easy feat. Boasting a wonky appearance isn’t enough; dogs must also impress the judges and audience with their personalities and accomplishments. Scamp, according to his biography, regularly visits a local senior center and volunteers as a “reading dog,” letting first-graders read stories to him. His favorite book, his bio notes, is Go Dog Go.

“I think the audience saw his beautiful spirit and everything he’s given back to the community,” Morones tells Beale.

The competition’s second-place honor went to Wild Thang, a bushy-haired Pekingese who once contracted distemper, a viral disease that left Wild Thang with slight paralysis of the jaw and a front leg that never stops paddling. Tostito, a chihuahua who lacks teeth and a lower jaw, won third place and the Spirit Award, according to John Rogers of the Associated Press. As champion, Scamp joins the ranks of previous competition winners including Zsa Zsa the English bulldog and Martha the Neapolitan mastiff.

Scamp was found wandering the streets of Compton—“licking Taco Bell wrappers,” according to Taylor of the Times—and was adopted by Morones in 2014.

“It was on the way home that I knew I made the right choice,” she says. “There we were, two strangers in a car on the way home to a new start. Bob Marley was playing … and I looked over and little Scamp was bobbing his head. It was like he knew he had found his forever home.”

The Ugliest Dog Contest is without a doubt entertaining, but it also hopes to impart a serious message: Even dogs without a pedigree, or dogs that don’t quite measure up to standards of conventional canine beauty, are worthy of love and celebration. Many of the contestants, according to the competition’s website, have been rescued from shelters or puppy mills, and the contest organizers seek to promote adoption as an option for potential pet owners—“no matter [the dogs’] physical detractions.”

As part of their prize, Morones and Scamp were flown to New York for an appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.” There, Morones revealed that she was the owner of two previous Ugliest Dog winners—one of whom, Nana, took home the title six times.

In her opinion, Morones said, she doesn’t believe that her latest prize-winning pooch is ugly at all.

“He’s absolutely adorable,” she said. “When people first meet him, they go, ‘Oh, he’s kind of scary’ and then he wins them over with his sparkling personality.”

ooOOoo

Now that is not a particularly good photograph of Scamp in the article so I looked for an alternative.

Scamp the Tramp won the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest Friday evening in Petaluma.

Now he is not smart as in smooth-coated but he is a long way from being ugly. Reminds me a little of our own Sweeny.

Here’s a video of the champion.

Welcome to July!

Offering a clue

A republication of an earlier post from The Smithsonian

Those who read yesterday’s post will find today’s post highly interesting.

A copy of an article from two years ago in The Smithsonian.

ooOOoo

New Study Has a Bone to Pick With Dog Domestication Findings

Contrary to past research, a new DNA study suggests fido was only tamed once

One wave of domestication or two? The debate rages on. (Dageldog/iStock)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com
July 19, 2017

Though dogs are humanity’s oldest and most consistent animal friend, scientists have long struggled to figure out just how Canis familiaris came to be. Though researchers agree dogs are descended from wild wolves, they aren’t sure when and where domestication occurred. And as Tina Hesman Saey at Science News reports, a new study has revived the debate, suggesting that dogs were domesticated one time between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Dog domestication has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. In 2016, researchers looked at the mitochondrial DNA of modern and ancient dog species, determining that dogs come from two different wolf populations, one found in Europe and one found in Asia. That means that wolves would have been domesticated in two different places, with the two lineages eventually mixing in modern dogs.

But this latest research contradicts the double-domestication hypothesis. According to Ben Guarino at the Washington Post, researchers looked at the well-preserved DNA of two ancient dogs found in Germany, one 7,000 years old and one 4,700 years old, as well as the complete genomes of 100 modern dogs and snippets of DNA from 5,600 other wolves and dogs.

They traced the rate of mutations in the over time in the dog genomes. This technique, which creates a “molecular clock,” indicates that dogs diverged from wolves 36,900 years ago to 41,500 years ago in a single domestication event. But they can’t determine exactly where the split occurred. About 20,000 years later, the molecular clock indicates dogs split into European and Asian groups. They published their results in the journal Nature Communications

Not everyone is convinced by the study. Greger Larson, Oxford evolutionary biologist and author of the earlier domestication study, tells Guarino that the latest research does not explain the “ridiculously deep split” between the genetics of ancient European and Asian dogs. He also points out that while ancient dog bones have been found in far eastern Asia and western Europe, the middle of Eurasia seems to be empty of dog bones, suggesting that there were two ancient populations, separated by vast distances.

Krishna Veeramah, a palaeogeneticist at Stony Brook University and author of the new study says he doesn’t anticipate that the paper will put the issue to rest. “More ancient dog DNA from genomes will ultimately solve the problem,” he tells Rachael Lallensack at Nature. Researchers are hoping to find more geographically diverse DNA from dogs as well as samples from different time periods.

Whether it happened once or twice, how and why did domestication occur?

As Veeramah​ tells Helen Briggs at the BBC that it’s likely dogs evolved from wolves that began hanging around human camps, scavenging their scraps. ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.”

One early benefit of domesticated dogs may have been that they could help transport meat from carcasses or hunt dangerous game like cave bears and cave lions, Saey writes in an earlier Science News article.

For now, however, exactly when and where Fido first approached humans will remain a mastiff question.

ooOOoo

For my money the origins of the domestic dog are as Krishna Veeramah puts it: ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.

When did we come together?

A cache of animal bones 11,500 years old suggests an answer.

Brigit Katz of The Smithsonian wrote an article in January that revealed that dogs and humans hunted together many thousands of years ago.

Here it is:

ooOOoo

Humans and Dogs May Have Hunted Together in Prehistoric Jordan

Bones at a settlement called Shubayqa 6 show clear signs of having been digested—but were much too large to have been eaten by humans

Selection of gazelle bones from Space 3 at Shubayqa 6 displaying evidence for having been in the digestive tract of a carnivore. ( Credit: University of Copenhagen)

By Brigit Katz
SMITHSONIAN.COM
JANUARY 17, 2019

When and where dogs came to be domesticated is a subject of scientific debate, but there is a wealth of research that attests to the long, intertwined history of humans and their best animal buddies. One theory about the early origins of this relationship posits that dogs were used to help early humans hunt. And, as Ruth Schuster reports for Haaretz, a new study suggests that this may have been the case among prehistoric peoples of what is now Jordan.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Copenhagen and University College London studied a cache of animal bones at an 11,500-year-old settlement called Shubayqa 6, which is classified as “Pre-Pottery Neolithic A,” or belonging to the first stage of Neolithic culture in the Levant. In the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, the researchers write that they found bones from a canid species, though they could not identify which one because the remains were poorly preserved. They also unearthed the bones of other animals that had been butchered. But perhaps most intriguing were the bones of animals—like gazelle, for instance—that bore clear signs of having passed through a digestive tract.

These bones were too big for humans to have eaten, leading the researchers to surmise that they “must have been digested by dogs,” says lead study author Lisa Yeomans, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Copenhagen. And the researchers don’t think this was a case of wild carnivores sneaking into the settlement to grab a bite.

For one, archaeological evidence indicates that Shubayqa 6 was occupied year-round, suggesting that “dogs were allowed to freely roam around the site picking over the discarded waste, but also defecating in the vicinity of where humans were inhabiting,” the study authors write.

There was also a noticeable surge in hare bones around the time that dogs started to appear at the site, and the researchers think this may be because the dogs were helping humans hunt small prey. Previously, the people of Shubayqa 6 might have relied on tools like netting to catch hares and other animals, says Yeomans, but it wouldn’t have been very effective. Dogs, on the other hand, could selectively target elusive prey.

Humans and dogs thus appear to have forged a reciprocal relationship in Jordan more than 11,000 years ago. There is in fact evidence to suggest that dogs were domesticated by humans in the Near East as early as 14,000 years ago, and some of that evidence seems to point to dogs being used during hunts. Rock art from a site near Shubayqa, for instance, seems to show dogs driving gazelle into a trap.

In light of such archaeological finds, “it would be strange not to consider hunting aided by dogs as a likely explanation for the sudden abundance of smaller prey in the archaeological record,” Yeomans says. Among the ancient peoples of Jordan, in other words, the complex history of dog domestication may have been well underway.

ooOOoo

That scientific debate mentioned in the first line of the article has been published in this place before. But I’m going to republish it tomorrow as it so perfectly goes with today’s post.

Breathing problems in certain dogs

This is of interest to many but especially lovers of bulldogs and similar.

There was an article on May 17th in The Smithsonian that caught my eye. So much so that I wanted to republish it for you.

Here it is.

ooOOoo

Breathing Problems in Pugs and Bulldogs Might Have a Genetic Component

It might not be their smushed-up snouts after all

They’re all good dogs. ( Frank Gaglione / Getty)

By Jason Daley

smithsonian.com
May 17, 2019
Smushed-up faces are what make certain dog breeds, like French and English bulldogs or pugs, so ugly-cute. But those good looks come with a cost. Many dogs in these breeds suffer from a disease called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). The compact architecture of their skull results in deformation, which make their nostrils or soft palate too small, obstructing airflow and leaving the pups gasping for breath. Researchers long thought that the main cause was their shortened faces. But genes found in another breed suggest that the shortness of breath might be in their DNA, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Ed Cara at Gizmodo reports that veterinarians began to notice that another small breed of dog, the Norwich terrier, was increasingly coming down with similar respiratory symptoms, a disease called upper airway obstructive syndrome. Unlike flat-faced pugs and bulldogs, however, the Norwich—bred for chasing rodents—has a nice, proportional skull. That got study author Jeffrey Schoenebeck, a veterinary scientist at the University of Edinburgh, wondering if the breathing problems in all the small dogs were genetic.

“That made us wonder if there was something similar shared across these different breeds, or if we were seeing two different diseases that just looked very similar,” he says.

Schoenebeck and his team decided to dig into the terrier’s DNA to find out. The team assessed 401 Norwich terriers for signs of the airway syndrome and also examined their genomes. Cassie Martin at Science News reports the researchers discovered one gene mutation in particular, ADAMTS3, was associated with the breathing disorder. Dogs with two copies of the mutation showed signs of fluid retention and swelling around the lungs. They had worse breathing scores than dogs with just one copy of the mutation or the normal gene.

When the team examined the genome of bulldogs and pugs, they also found that ADAMTS3 was common, meaning their funky faces might not be the only cause of BOAS.

“BOAS is a complex disease. Although skull shape remains an important risk factor, our study suggests that the status of ADAMTS3 should be considered as well,” Schoenebeck says in a press release. “More studies are needed to dissect the complex nature of this devastating disease.”

Cara reports that Norwich terrier breeders are already inadvertently combating the mutation. In Switzerland, Schoenebeck’s team has been working with breeders to give dogs breathing tests, identifying pups likely to develop the disease. As a result, the younger generation of terriers is less like to develop the disease than older dogs.

“In the 90s, something like 80 percent of the Norwich terriers that came into their clinic had poor breathing and this mutation,” Schoenebeck tells Cara. “But it’s decreasing further and further over time. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually selecting against this thing that we think is causing this disease.”

The genetic finding means that researchers can now screen directly for the mutation, and perhaps rid the terrier population of the disease.

The problem in flat-faced breeds may not be quite as simple to deal with. Wonky skull shape still makes the risk of developing BOAS higher, and the gene mutation adds to that risk. The team needs to do a similar study with bulldogs to figure out how much of their breathing problems come from their genes and how much comes from their cute little smushed-up skulls.

Smushed-up faces are what make certain dog breeds, like French and English bulldogs and pugs, so ugly-cute. But those good looks come with a cost. Many dogs in these breeds suffer from a disease called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). The compact architecture of their skull results in deformation, that make the nostrils or soft palate too small, obstructing airflow and leaving the pups gasping for breath. Researcher long thought that the main cause was their shortened faces. But genes found in another breed suggest that the shortness of breath might be in their DNA.

Ed Cara at Gizmodo reports that veterinarians began to notice that another small breed of dog, the Norwich Terrier, was increasingly coming down with similar respiratory symptoms, a disease called Upper Airway Syndrome. Unlike flat-faced pugs and bulldogs, however, the Norwich, bred for chasing rodents, has a nice, proportional skull. That got Jeffrey Schoenebeck of the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburghand and lead author of the study in the journal PLOS Genetics wondering if the breathing problems in all the small dogs were genetic.

“That made us wonder if there was something similar shared across these different breeds, or if we were seeing two different diseases that just looked very similar,” he says.

Schoenebeck and his team decided to dig into the terrier’s DNA to find out. The team assessed 401 Norwich Terriers for signs of the airway syndrome and also examined their genomes. Cassie Martin at Science News reports the researchers discovered one gene mutation in particular, ADAMTS3, was associated with the breathing disorder. Dogs with two copies of the mutation showed signs of fluid retention and swelling around the lungs. They had worse breathing scores than dogs with just one copy of the mutation or the normal gene.

When the team examined the genome of bulldogs and pugs, they also found that ADAMTS3 was common, meaning their funky faces might not be the only cause of BOAS.

“BOAS is a complex disease. Although skull shape remains an important risk factor, our study suggests that the status of ADAMTS3 should be considered as well,” study leader Jeffrey Schoenebeck says in a press release. “More studies are needed to dissect the complex nature of this devastating disease.”

Cara reports that Norwich Terrier breeders are already inadvertently combating the mutation. In Switzerland, Schoenebeck’s co-authors have been working with breeders to give dogs breathing tests, identifying doggos likely to develop the disease. As a result, the younger generation of terriers is less like to develop the disease than older dogs.

“In the 90s, something like 80 percent of the Norwich Terriers that came into their clinic had poor breathing and this mutation,” Schoenebeck tells Cara. “But it’s decreasing further and further over time. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually selecting against this thing that we think is causing this disease.”

The genetic finding means that researchers can now screen directly for the mutation, and perhaps rid the terrier population of the disease.

The problem in flat-faced breeds may not be quite as simple to deal with. Wonky skull shape still makes the risk of developing BOAS higher, and the gene mutation adds to that risk. The team needs to do a similar study with bulldogs to figure out how much of their breathing problems come from their genes and how much comes from their cute little smushed-up skulls.

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

ooOOoo

How great it would be if the problem facing these flat-faced breeds was slowly done away with.

Guess what! Eating one’s vegetables is very good.

This article should be shared!

I wasn’t going to post a blog for today but in going through my emails found this from April 15th.

It’s nothing to do with dogs but everything to do with staying healthy.

ooOOoo

Eating Your Veggies Is a Better Way to Get Your Vitamins Than Taking Supplements, Study Shows

Vitamins in some supplements were actually harmful at high doses, while exceeding the daily nutritional limit in food didn’t show the same risk.

(barol16/istock)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com, April 15, 2019,
Dietary supplements, including daily vitamins, have been a part of life in the United States for decades. In fact, people spend $30 billion per year on various pills, powders, gummies and tinctures to help improve their health, boost their brain, lose weight, build muscle and strengthen their immune system.

But a new extensive study suggests many people may be better off spending all that disposable income at the farmer’s market or grocery store produce section to buy spinach, tomatoes and other vitamin-packed veggies instead, according to a paper published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from 27,725 participants in the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Each volunteer, all over the age of 20, logged what they ate for 24 hours and what supplements they took in the previous 30 days. The data was collected between 1999 and 2010.

Linda Carroll at NBC News reports that during the study’s six-year follow-up period, 3,613 participants died, including 945 from cardiovascular disease and 805 from cancer. Using that data, the study team found that getting enough vitamin K—found in leafy greens—and magnesium—found in legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish and meat—were associated with a lower mortality rate. Getting the recommended dose of vitamin K, zinc and vitamin A was linked to lower mortality rates associated with cardiovascular disease.

And it turned out that taking 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day in supplement form was associated with increased cancer risk, while getting excess calcium from food did not seem to increase those risks.

“Our results support the idea that, while supplement use contributes to an increased level of total nutrient intake, there are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements,” Fang Fang Zhang of Tufts University, the study’s senior author, says in a statement. “This study also confirms the importance of identifying the nutrient source when evaluating mortality outcomes.”

At first glance, the data suggested that supplement users might have better outcomes than non-vitamin takers. But Beth Mole at Ars Technica reports that supplement users tend to be wealthier and more educated than non-users, smoke less, exercise more, and have an overall healthier diet. When those factors were accounted for, the benefits of supplements disappeared. (It’s possible that supplements are helpful for portions of the population that suffer from certain nutritional deficiencies.)

The study has some limitations. Mole reports that the NHANES data relies on participants self-reporting what they eat and what supplements they take, which means the data might not be entirely accurate. The study is observational, meaning any relationship between nutrients in food and certain diseases is merely an association and does not imply causation.

Still, the study’s overall message is that supplements are not a silver bullet for health.

“I don’t think you can undo the effect of a bad diet by taking supplements,” Rekha Kumar, an endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, who was not involved in the study tells NBC’s Carroll.

This isn’t the first study to question the power of nutritional supplements. A paper last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that using multivitamins did not provide any apparent benefits but did not cause any harm either.

In a 2017 paper, data from the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the longest and most comprehensive health studies conducted, suggested that multivitamin use did not decrease incidents of stroke.

In fact, taking some supplements have negative consequences. A 2011 study found that taking vitamin E, which was hypothesized to help prevent prostate cancer, actually increased the chances of developing the disease in men instead.

Zhang and her colleagues say that much more research needs to be undertaken to confirm and understand these findings since there are so many other factors that play a role in overall health.

ooOOoo

H’mmm. It would be a braver person than I to come off the range of supplements that I take. And we are vegan as well!

But very much not in the fountain of youth!

 

That Vitamin D issue.

A very useful article published by The Smithsonian.

SMARTNEWS published by The Smithsonian yesterday confirmed what we were starting to suspect; there was a widespread problem with excessive Vitamin D in dog food.

ooOOoo

Excessive Vitamin D in Pet Food May Be Making Dogs Sick

A number of brands, including Nutrisca and Natural Life, have issued recalls of certain products

(HANNAH SUMMERS / Alamy Stock Photo)

By Brigit Katz
smithsonian.com  December 5, 2018

The Food and Drug Administration is warning dog owners to keep a close watch on their furry friends, after several brands of dry dog food were found to contain potentially toxic levels of vitamin D.

According to NPR’s Amy Held, the FDA has received reports of dogs falling ill after eating certain foods, which are made by an unnamed manufacturer and sold under at least eight different brands. Nutrisca and Natural Life issued recalls in early November, reports Shelby Lin Erdman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and several other brands have followed suit. The full list, which includes products by Sunshine Mills and ELM Pet Foods, can be seen here.

The FDA says the situation is developing, and its scientists are still working to definitively link the dogs’ illnesses to their diet. But when the agency sampled some of the questionable products, it found that the foods contained as much as 70 times the amount of intended vitamin D.

As it does in humans and other mammals, vitamin D helps dogs maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in their bodies, which is essential for bone formation, along with heart, muscle and nerve function.

But if pooches ingest excessive doses of the nutrient—which happens most often when dogs accidentally eat vitamin D-containing rodenticide —their calcium and phosphorous levels can get thrown off balance, according to the veterinary company VCA. Very high amounts of vitamin D can have a number of serious health effects on dogs, including kidney disease and even death.

Symptoms of vitamin D poisoning in dogs include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss. The FDA says that pet owners who notice these symptoms in dogs that have been eating the recalled brands should contact their vets right away—there are treatments that can help.

The agency also recommends disposing of recalled products in a way that makes them inaccessible to pets, wildlife and children. And owners who suspect that their dogs have fallen sick from vitamin D poisoning can report the illness to the FDA through an online portal.

ooOOoo

That online portal may be accessed here.

Please share this with other dog lovers.

More benefits of four legs!

Look what dear Monty found!

I shall cut my waffling and just say that I saw this item on The Smithsonian ‘Smart News’ section last week and just knew it should be shared with you!

ooOOoo

Who’s a Good Archaeologist? Dog Digs Up Trove of Bronze Age Relics

While on a walk outside a small Czech village, Monty the dog and his owner found nearly two dozen 3,000-year-old artifacts

Monty, the dog that found the Bronze Age relics, unearthed 13 sickles, two spear points, three axes and several bracelets. (Hradec Králové Region)

Some archaeologists carry tools and painstakingly chip away at historic sites. Others might have fluffy bodies, keen senses of smell and an affinity for digging stuff up.

As Tom McEnchroe reports for Radio Praha, a very good dog named Monty recently unearthed a rare trove of Bronze Age artifacts near the Czech village of Kostelecké Horky. Monty was walking with his human, identified as “Mr. Frankota,” in a field when he began pawing frenetically at the ground. Soon, thanks to Monty’s hard work, metallic objects began to emerge in the soil.

The cache of relics includes 13 sickles, two spear points, three axes and several bracelets. The objects have been dated to the Urnfield period around 3,000 years ago. This late European Bronze Age culture is marked by the transition from inhumation burials to cremations; the remains of the dead were interred in urns, giving the era its name. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Urnfield culture first appeared in east-central Europe and northern Italy, but eventually spread “to Ukraine, Sicily, Scandinavia, and across France to the Iberian peninsula.”

It is rare to find a cluster of intact Urnfield objects, according to a press release. “The culture that lived here at the time normally just buried fragments, often melted as well,” Martina Beková, an archaeologist at the Museum and Gallery of Orlické who studied the artifacts after they were discovered by Monty, tells McEnchroe. So she suspects that the relics were tied to a ritual—“most likely a sacrifice of some sorts,” Beková says.

Additional evidence could help pin down the function of the objects, and according to Michelle Starr of Science Alert, local archaeologists have been searching the area in the hopes of finding more relics. They haven’t uncovered anything yet, but Sylvie Velčovská, a spokeswoman for the region, tells McEnchroe that there have been, considerable changes to the surrounding terrain over the centuries, so it is possible that the deeper layers are still hiding some secrets.

The newly uncovered objects will be on display at the Museum and Gallery of Orlické Mountains in the town of Rychnov until October 21, after which point they will undergo conservation and be moved to a permanent exhibition in the village of Kostelec.

Frankota, Monty’s owner, was awarded 7860 Czech Koruna (around $360) for his role in alerting archaeologists to the ancient treasures. One can only hope that Monty was given many treats and pets for his superb fieldwork

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dog-uncovers-trove-bronze-age-relics-czech-republic-180970324/#HE8cRkejVQOPDlzk.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

oooo

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media’s Women in the World.

Read more from this author |

ooOOoo

Where would we be without our dear dogs!!

Sweet Oliver surveying the new sights and smells down by the stables!