Monday, March 30, 2015

Victorian Puppies

A vintage photo with everything:
good composition, great hat, a palm tree
 and three adorable puppies!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Lurcher - Another Point of View

Gracie Jones
Dr. Barkman's favorite Lurcher
The Lurcher is a hybrid that has two purebred parents of different breeds (like a Labradoodle).
A handsome Lurcher indeed.

What's the history behind the mysterious Lurcher? 

Up to no good?
The most commonly told story is that the Lurcher was a poacher's dog, favored by Roma people.  The name is a combination of the ancient Romany word  "lur" which means thief and "cur" which means a mixed breed dog. Over the centuries it became one word - Lurcher.  I guess it would translate to thieving mutt. But this old tale has a lot more to do with discrimination against Roma gypsies than it does with dog breed history.  
A den of thieves?
Another commonly told tale is this one: In the 14th through 16th centuries, English and Scottish governments banned the lower class (mostly Irish) from owning sighthounds lest they be tempted to steal game animals from the King's private preserve.   So they created a clever mongrel using a sighthound as one of the parents. The Lurcher was bred to poach the King's rabbits and birds. My guess is this fable has to do with discrimination too, but against the Irish.

Denigrating the Irish (Punch Magazine)
What else would you expect of an Irish dog?
If you look at the etymology of the word Lurcher, it could be interpreted to mean thieving dog.  But the middle English meaning of the word is also "to lie hidden, lie in ambush." This makes more sense to me.  Hunting dogs were originally used to net game. The dog would freeze or set the animal to allow the hunter to throw the net over it. 

This is how Giles Jacobs used the word Lurcher in his 1718 treatise on hunting dogs (The compleat sportsman.  London:  Eliz. Nutt and R. Colling)  "Your setting dog, you may chose [sic] either a land spaniel, water spaniel or mongrel of them both, the Lurcher. (p. 6)
Just a good ol' huntin' dog?

From what Jacobs said, the Lurcher was any combination of two hunting dogs.  By crossing them, you could create a dog that was a little less hyper than either high-strung parent. It could be a a hybrid of a sighthound, herding dog, setter or spaniel.

Greyhound x Collie mix = Lurcher
Today the traditional Lurcher is mostly represented by Greyhound hybrids. Ruth Horter's The Lurcher is a good contemporary history with lots of pictures of Lurcher combos. (Dr. Barkman would like one of each please.) This is a good website too - Celtic Lurchers

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chemical BPA in Dog Toys

Dogs that chew on certain kinds of plastic toys and bird-dog training bumpers containing the additive BPA may be exposed to chemicals that are toxic, according to research conducted at Texas Tech University. And a new study (3-2-2015) reports an association between BPA and autism spectrum disorder in children. (Scientists wouldn't be able to identify it in dogs although I swear I knew a dog that was autistic.)
It's always something

BPA is a chemical added to plastics to increase softening, flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. In humans and lab rodents BPA has been linked to a number of health issues including impaired development of reproductive organs, decreased fertility and cancers.  

In July 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug administration banned BPA in baby bottles, zippy cups, and other containers used by children, but there are no restrictions on dog products.   (Dr. Barkman says "If it's not good for babies it's not good for dogs.")
Look for BPA-free toys.

If you're looking for BPA-free dog products you can find them at Planet Dog, West Paw Design, Jolly Pet, Premium Pets and Chewber.  Look for products that say "BPA free" or made in the USA from 100% natural rubber.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs

Inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] is a condition in which the
digestive tract is chronically infiltrated by inflammatory cells, some that invade the wall of the stomach and intestine.  Symptoms include vomiting, chronic diarrhea and weight loss.
Some breeds are more prone to IBD than others.

Although it's unknown how many dogs suffer from IBD, an unpublished study by Morris Animal Foundation that surveyed a thousand blind guide dog handlers who had worked with numerous dogs over several decades identified the most common health issues in current and previous guide dogs. The study found that 5% of working guides suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Researchers know that significantly lower bacterial diversity as well as distinct microbial communities are observed in dogs with IBD. Dr. Jan Suchodolski, a veterinarian researcher in biomedical sciences at Texas A & M University was part of research team that conducted a study with dogs suffering from IBD. They wanted to know if traditional treatments - steroids and special diets - create (directly or indirectly) a more robust microbial community.

After treatment, sick dogs felt a lot better.  However, there was no change in their gut microbiota. It could be that microorganisms are compromised by the condition; they do not trigger it.  Researchers also suspect that biological environmental stresses are involved in ways not yet understood.  

The researchers said, "In conclusion, this study demonstrates intestinal dysbiosis and altered serum metabolite profiles in dogs with IBD. But medical therapy doesn't seem to affect the intestinal dysbiosis."

It remains a conundrum and more study is being conducted. When it's published, I'll summarize the results here.