∙Several pet food products have been recalled after 28 dogs died, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced. Three brands of Sportmix products for dogs and cats made by Midwestern Pet Foods may contain potentially fatal levels of the toxin aflatoxin, according to the FDA.
The FDA said it is aware of at least 28 deaths and eight illnesses in dogs that ate the recalled pet food.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture tested multiple samples of the food and found “very high levels” of aflatoxin, which is produced by a mold that can grow on corn and other grains used in pet food, the FDA said.
Midwestern Pet Foods has committed to recalling nine lots of Sportmix products, the FDA said. The FDA and Missouri Department of Agriculture are working to determine if any others need to be recalled.
The lot code, which begins with the letters “Exp,” is located on the back of the bag.
∙ A mixed-breed dog won an American Kennel Club contest and was named the nation’s fastest dog.
Wailin’ Phelan The Bearded Lass, a rescue adopted by Krista Shreet and Ted Koch, competed against 116 other dogs in the inaugural Fast Course Ability Testing (CAT) Invitational. The fastest dogs of each breed, as ranked by prior kennel club events, met in Orlando for the competition December 9-11.
The Fast CAT is a 100-yard sprint in which dogs chase a lure on a string down a grassy field.
The dogs ran three times and their speeds were converted into miles per hour and averaged. Phelan ran an average of 32.3 miles an hour, beating a greyhound named Dagnabit, which came in second at 31.2 miles per hour.
The slowest dog at the race was a Pekingese named Buster who averaged 7.8 miles per hour. While Buster was slow relative to other dogs, Buster is the fastest Pekingese in the country.
Phelan is categorized as a large All-American dog, a term the club uses to describe mixed-breeds and unrecognized breeds. She is 4-years-old, and a genetic test shows she is part greyhound, part borzoi and part Scottish deerhound.
∙ This was published online Sept. 16 in the journal PLOS ONE.
Despite the deep desire to help your dog age gracefully and stay mentally sharp, new research suggests that even the best diet and training won’t slow the ravages of time for your furry friend.
Just like their human owners, dogs can experience thinking declines and behavioral changes as they age. They might display less curiosity about novel objects and show decline in social responsiveness, memory and attention, the researchers explained.
Studies have suggested that lifelong training and an enriched diet could slow dogs’ mental aging, but few have explored aging in pet dogs in real-life settings.
In this latest study, an international team of researchers led by Durga Chapagain, from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, found that middle-aged to elderly dogs who were trained throughout their life and fed a nutrient-enriched diet for a year performed no better on thinking tests than dogs who received less training and ate a regular diet.
The study included more than 100 pet dogs over the age of 6 years and of varying breeds. The participating dogs were split randomly into two groups: half were fed a nutrient-enriched diet, including antioxidants and omega fatty acids, while the other half consumed a regular diet. The researchers also collected information from the pets’ owners about their dogs’ previous training.
After a year on the diet, the researchers evaluated the dogs’ mental capacities using a cognitive test that is designed for older canines.
Sadly, diet and training were found to have no significant impact on mental decline, the study authors said.
The aging dogs experienced declines in four particular areas: problem-solving, sociability, boldness and dependency. However, the findings showed that their trainability and activity independence appeared to remain sharp.
∙ It’s not uncommon for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to wait years for a service dog because of lengthy waiting lists.
As these waiting lists continue to grow, a scientist at Purdue University continues to lead first-of-its-kind research revealing how exactly these dogs are helping veterans and the people around them – providing quantifiable data as they wait for a dog of their own.
Maggie O’Haire, an associate professor of human-animal interaction in the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine, is revealing how service dogs can offer both physiological and behavioral benefits to veterans with PTSD.
“We continue to hear that service dogs are saving veterans’ lives,” O’Haire said. “Our research is intended to measure this. We see that the dogs are helping, but now the challenge is answering how exactly service dogs are helping and what to expect once you have one of them in your household. Service dogs for PTSD are not a cure, but for some veterans they can offer benefits that make PTSD symptoms easier to manage.”
O’Haire led a preliminary study that took place in 2015-16, which showed that overall symptoms of PTSD were lower among war veterans with service dogs. The study examined 141 veterans — with 76 of them having a service dog and 65 being on a waiting list for a dog. O’Haire led that study with the help of K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides veterans with service dogs.
O’Haire’s work provided scientific evidence of mental health benefits experienced by veterans with PTSD who have service dogs. The findings during that study also went beyond behavioral benefits and assessed cortisol levels because it is a biomarker in the stress response system, O’Haire says. For veterans with service dogs, their cortisol levels grew higher in the morning than those who were on the waiting list. Healthy adults without PTSD typically have rising cortisol levels in the morning as part of their response to waking up. O’Haire’s research has revealed that for veterans, having a service dog was also associated with less anger, less anxiety and better sleep.
In preparation for the clinical trial, O’Haire co-led a study that showed what trained tasks service dogs perform the most often and which ones are most helpful to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The study found that the task of disrupting episodes of anxiety ranked among the most important and most often used. Support for the work was provided by Merrick Pet Care.
O’Haire and her research team will continue to analyze and learn from the data collected from the recently concluded clinical trial, which includes studying how veterans are partnering with their dogs and what trained tasks continue to be the most important.
“Our goal is to advance rigorous science instead of relying on intuition when it comes to how service dogs are helping veterans,” O’Haire said.