Vol. 14, No. 10 – Feb 10 – Feb 23, 2021 – The Pet Page

∙The first dogs have arrived from Delaware and are settled in their new home.

Lucky German Shepherds are living in Washington, DC.

“Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by fireplace and Major loved running around the South Lawn,” the White House said in a press release. Champ lived at the vice president’s residence during the Biden’s time there, and Major was adopted by the family in 2018 from a Delaware pet rescue.

∙ To some extent, dog genetic patterns mirror human ones, because people took their animal companions with them when they moved. But there were also important differences.

For example, early European dogs were initially diverse, appearing to originate from two very distinct populations, one related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs.

But at some point, perhaps after the onset of the Bronze Age, a single dog lineage spread widely and replaced all other dog populations on the continent. This pattern has no counterpart in the genetic patterns of people from Europe.

Anders Bergström, lead author and post-doctoral researcher at the Crick, said: “If we look back more than four or five thousand years ago, we can see that Europe was a very diverse place when it came to dogs. Although the European dogs we see today come in such an extraordinary array of shapes and forms, genetically they derive from only a very narrow subset of the diversity that used to exist.”

An international team analyzed the whole genomes (the full complement of DNA in the nuclei of biological cells) of 27 ancient dog remains associated with a variety of archaeological cultures. They compared these to each other and to modern dogs.

The results reveal that breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback in southern Africa and the Chihuahua and Xoloitzcuintli in Mexico retain genetic traces of ancient indigenous dogs from the region.

The ancestry of dogs in East Asia is complex. Chinese breeds seem to derive some of their ancestry from animals like the Australian dingo and New Guinea singing dog, with the rest coming from Europe and dogs from the Russian steppe.

Greger Larson, a co-author from the University of Oxford, said: “Dogs are our oldest and closest animal partner. Using DNA from ancient dogs is showing us just how far back our shared history goes and will ultimately help us understand when and where this deep relationship began.”

Dogs are thought to have evolved from wolves that ventured into human camps, perhaps sniffing around for food. As they were tamed, they could then have served humans as hunting companions or guards.

The results suggest all dogs derive from a single extinct wolf population – or perhaps a few very closely related ones. If there were multiple domestication events around the world, these other lineages did not contribute much DNA to later dogs.

Dr Skoglund said it was unclear when or where the initial domestication occurred. “Dog history has been so dynamic that you can’t really count on it still being there to readily read in their DNA. We really don’t know – that’s the fascinating thing about it.”

Many animals, such as cats, probably became our pets when humans settled down to farm a little over 6,000 years ago. Cats were probably useful for controlling pests such as mice, that were attracted by the waste generated by dense settlements. This places their domestication in cradles of agriculture such as the Near East.

“For dogs, it could almost have been anywhere: cold Siberia, the warm Near East, South-East Asia. All of these are possibilities in my mind,” Pontus Skoglund explained.

∙According to MedVet, cancer affects one in four dogs and one in five cats, and is the No. 1 disease-related cause of death for dogs and cats in the U.S.

Dr. Bobbi Musgrove, of Premier Pet Clinic in Tahlequah, said it’s a lot harder to detect symptoms of cancer in animals than in people.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the things people have as symptoms when they are coming down with cancer are easier to detect because people know those aren’t normal,” Musgrove said. “In dogs and cats, they tend to hide those kinds of symptoms, even though they’re very well domesticated. They are still technically prey and they’re not necessarily going to show us when they have symptoms of pain.”

Big changes dogs or cats may make if they are feeling ill include loss of appetite, decreased physical activity, or major behavior changes. Surprisingly, cats may come off as friendlier, and that could indicate an illness.

“A lot of people think that a dog or a cat might vocalize when they’re in pain, but in fact, that’s not generally the case unless it’s an injury-type of pain,” Musgrove said. “They’re not going to cry if they have pain associated with a tumor somewhere.”

Among the types of cancers dogs and cats are most at risk for are skin cancer, lymphosarcoma, spleen, liver, and bone and joint.

“There’s not just one [cancer] that’s the most common, but we do tend to see dogs and cats getting lymphosarcoma, and it can pop up in numerous systems throughout the body,” Musgrove said.

The process for detecting cancer in an animal begins with a physical exam.

“There aren’t as straightforward of tests for dogs and cats as there are for people. We don’t have what’s called a ‘PET’ scan and we don’t have genetic blood work or markers that are specific for certain tumors,” Musgrove said. “It’s all going to depend on if I feel a mass in the abdomen. We take an X-ray and then maybe do an ultrasound, and then we would potentially get a diagnosis based on getting a sample like a biopsy.”

More often than not, surgery will be initially recommended by a veterinarian, with radiation or chemotherapy following.

“For skin cancers, there’s probably a decent percentage in the realm of 60 to 90 percent,” Musgrove said. “For tumors that arise in other places — a lot of them, by the time we diagnose them, have already metastasized or spread. The chance of cure with surgery drops down to probably somewhere in the realm of 30 percent.”

Musgrove said a good step in detecting cancers in its early stages would be to have pets get physical exams annually.

“We recommend an annual physical exam for any pet that’s less than 6 years of age. Generally speaking, we’re not going to see cancers arise at a young age, just like in people,” Musgrove said. “Anything over 6, we do recommend semi-annual exams because then we can be better at staying on top of it.”

Another recommendation Musgrove has for pet owners to get their furry loved ones insured before it’s too late.

“Just like in people, you cannot wait until your vet says they believe your dog or cat has cancer to get insurance. You have to have it in advance; otherwise, it’s a pre-existing condition and it won’t be covered,” Musgrove said.

National Pet Cancer Awareness Month started in 2005, and was created by Nationwide and the Animal Cancer Foundation with a goal of raising money and increasing awareness to fight the leading killer of pets.

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