Canine Health Foundation Conference Report
Jessica and Mattie Cobban
First, we would like to explain what the Canine Health Foundation (CHF) even. 25 years ago, the CHF was created. The mission is to improve canine health by providing funding for research to prevent, treat and hopefully cure canine diseases. Basically, researchers put in for grants and if the CHF finds value to the study the grant will be awarded. Also, the CHF research includes all topics canine health-related. Any area from oncology, to behavior, cardiology, blood diseases, neurology, and a newer topic tick-borne disease can be studied. Besides the wonderful research that is going on, my favorite thing about the CHF is how easily all the information is to get. If you have not yet, we would STRONGLY suggest that you check the CHF website http://www.akcchf.org to discover more about the research that is going on and possibly even donating to the CHF. We would strongly suggest that you check out their resources. Even if you do not have a vet/medical background, they put information out there for breeders, owners, and vets. The main goal is to get the information out there to all related with dogs so that way we can breed and raise the healthiest dogs possible.
Due to all the different studies and different research topics, it is not possible to present all the updates from every study for each research area. At the conference, they pick a couple different research areas to present on. There have 5 speakers for each area. This year the conference focused on Nutrition & Disease, Autoimmunity & Disease, Infectious Diseases, Cancer, and Genetics & Disease. After all the speakers from each topic have presented in that area then there is a round table discussion. Audience members are allowed the opportunity to ask their questions to the panel.
New Approaches to Diagnosis and Therapy of Intestinal Microbiota.
Dr. Suchodolski started his talk explaining how the bacteria in the gut is an area of medicine that has been overlooked for many years. It was believed that the microbiota in the gut was not very important, but over the past serval years that was of thinking has started to change. He explained how the gut microbiota could have more effects on the overall health of a dog that was ever known. The bacteria in intestines and fecal matter is alive and helps in many important metabolic pathways. New research is finding links between the imbalanced gut microbiota and many common gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal diseases, and most of the time this is caused by something missing. Each dog has an individual gut microbiota and each reacts differently to treatments. Dr. Suchodolski made the point that owners and vets should be more cautious about simply prescribe antibiotics for every situation. The full effects of antibiotics on gut microbiota are not year know but are believes to be more extensive than we ever thought. He made the point that people should not stop using antibiotics because they have a very important purpose but that other options should be considered before prescribing the medication.
Effects of Probiotics on the GI Microbiome and Immune System of Dogs and Cats.
Dr. Lappin is a vet who has worked extensively with dogs and cats in shelters in Colorado studying the effects of probiotics. He stated there are not many studies that look into the effect of probiotics and the ones there were there before his research was not the highest of quality. Most of his research was sponsored by Purina and focused on some of their probiotics. Because of the lack of research, it was unknown if probiotics were truly helpful or if it is something we just thought was good because it had the word “Pro” in it. A gastrointestinal problem like diarrhea is very common in the shelter environment. He had very promising results in not only decreasing diarrhea but also boosting the immune systems of animals in the shelters. Future research will need to be done to look into dosing for probiotics, it is not known if there can be too much of a good thing or not. The point he wanted people to take home was no matter what probiotics or any other supplement you want to give your dog make sure there is valid research to back it up, otherwise you may just be wasting your money.
The Gut-Brain Axis and Those “Gut Feelings”: Impact of BL999 on Anxious Dogs.
This presentation was presented by Dr. Ragen McGowan and she works for Purina at their research facility in St. Louis Missouri. She spoke about a dietary supplement that Purina had developed to help dogs with anxiety. There is a large portion of dogs that are affected by anxiety. It was previously believed to be related to genetics, environment or past experiences. The treatments have always been behavior modification and drug intervention, but what is an owner to do when this doesn’t work, or they don’t want their dog is a sedated state all the time. Diet and the gut microbiota are something that has been overlooked, but could potentially have a major impact. Purina has developed a new supplement called BL999 and it was designed to work on a system they call the Gut-Brain Axis and the Vagus nerve. Dr. McGowan conducted a study looking at the effect of BL999. They used dogs at their facility so they could control their whole environment. Each dog was its own control. They had 2 groups of dogs and each dog had 6 weeks of treatment or control followed by a 3-week washout period and then another 6 weeks of treatment or control. There was formal anxiety testing done before and after each 6 week testing period. This test involved placing the dog in stressful situations for a brief time. This could be anything from a new environment, to sudden noises or even a weirdly dressed stranger. During the formal anxiety testing, the dog's heart rate was monitored. During the 15 weeks of the experiment, they also measured the cortisol level of the dog. Cortisol is a measurement of arousal. All of the studies test administrators and daily caretakers were blind to what dogs were receiving treatment and those that were. This improved the quality of the study and ensured the caretakers did not act differently around the dogs. During the 15 weeks of the experiment, the people who worked with the dogs daily documented all behavior and any changes that occurred. The post-study analysis showed promising results. They had significant decreased anxious behavior, decreased scores on formal anxiety tests, decreased heart rate and cortisol level. All of these show in different ways how the dogs overall were more relaxed and less anxious in their daily lives. This was a very promising study and one that is very significant to the Spinone owner and breeder as social anxiety is something that can affect the breed.
Updates on Nutritional Consideration and Heart Disease Staging in Dogs.
In this presentation, Dr. Adin spoke about the different causes of congestive heart failure (CHF) and the link it has to the kidneys. Congestive heart failure is caused by a backup of fluid that settles around the heart and causes the heart to have difficulty beating. The two main physiological causes of this are dilated cardiomyopathy in large dogs and degeneration of the mitral valve in small dogs. The treatment for this disease is to control the symptoms and maintain quality of life. The prognosis for this disease is about 1 year but varies with every dog. There are 5 stages of CHF. The first stages A, B1, B2 are a pre CHF stage. Stage C is controlled CHF and stage D is uncontrolled CHF. Stage D is not well understood in dogs and or people. There is a very strong connection to the kidney with CHF because the kidneys help regulate the sodium levels which leads to maintaining the fluid levels. Controlling sodium levels is important in controlling this disease. Various drugs control the sodium level in different ways. Most vets use a diuretic to help keep the fluid off the heart. This medication is a good starting point, but some dogs become resistant and they move from Stage C to D and the prognosis which is not good. Other medications work on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone systems that Dr. Adin studied. Her finding shows the possible ability to reverse the resistance to Diuretics. This is in the early stages and she believes there is a strong connection to poor absorption in the intestine and why these dogs become resistant.
An Update on Cannabidiol Research in Dogs.
Dr. McGrath has been researching the effects of CBD on dogs with epilepsy. Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that greatly affects the dog’s quality of life and the owners who love them. There are antiseizure medications on the market, but they can have some severe side effects and don’t give the dogs the best quality of life. Most dogs that have severe epilepsy are put down at a young age. Dr. McGrath has heard of CBD helping people with seizures, so she wanted to look into the possibility of it helping dogs. She started by explaining the difference in various cannabis plants. The cannabis plant produces 2 cannabinoids THC – psychoactive (what give people a high) and CBD – non-psychoactive. Marijuana is a type of cannabis that produces resin and contains higher than 0.3% THC so it is psychoactive. Hemp, which is the plant she used in the study, is high in CBD but low in THC less than 0.3%. Hemp has no psychoactive properties so it can be used for research but right now cannot legally be used as a treatment. Dr. McGrath started her research by looking into what research had been done and there were no good studies, so the first step was finding out what was the best way to administer the CBD and at what dose. In her first study, she tested the delivery methods of oil, capsules and transdermal cream and all three were at 5 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg. She measures CBD levels in the blood serum and any adverse reactions. She discovered that oil was the best way to administer the CBD. She had 4 dogs have diarrhea for a brief amount of time and 11 dogs with ALP elevation which is considered an adverse reaction. These each occurred at the higher dose. Overall the CBD was well tolerated by most dogs and it could be measured in the serum. Her next study is looking into dosing the oil and studies on dogs with epilepsy. She is still in the stage of gaining participants so any dog that has epilepsy may be able to meet the criteria for the study. All expenses are paid in this study, but the only condition is she cannot ship the CBD outside of Colorado. She has had people come to Colorado, pick up the CBD oil and take it home to participant in the study. People can buy CBD oil online for their dogs she just stated that there is no regulation on this so make sure you do extensive research before using any oil or other substance so you know what you are getting. It is also important to talk with your veterinarian
Addison’s Disease: A Research Update.
Dr. Steven Fridenberg has started doing research looking into the Addison’s disease. This is a disease that is common in Standard Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs and Cocker Spaniels. Addison’s disease is an autoimmune endocrine disorder where the body attacks the adrenal cortex. This puts dogs that have Addison’s disease at high risk for a potentially deadly adrenal crisis that has symptoms of shock, vomiting, and life-threatening electrolyte imbalances. This disease is treatable but not curable, so dogs require lifelong hormone supplementation. There is believed to be a genetic component to this disease and Dr. Fridenberg has worked to identify these genes. The process of finding a genetic link is very extensive and there has not been a direct link found yet. He has some promising possibilities but more research is need so they can find a cause for this disease and eventually be able to develop a cure instead of just treatment.
A Case of Mistaken Identity: Autoimmunity and Endocrine Disorders.
In a presentation about how easily autoimmune and endocrine disorders can be confused Dr. Anita Oberbauer spoke about her research into the possibility of genetic being important in distinguishing between the two. These diseases are not very common in most purebred and mixed dogs but can have a lifelong impact on the dogs. Many of these diseases are thought to be caused by the dog’s environment. It has been discovered that endocrine diseases like hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism and diabetes mellitus have not only a genetic component but also an autoimmune. The autoimmune component can have an important impact on the way some of these diseases are treated now and in the future. Dr. Oberbauer spoke about her interest in finding a possible genetic link in these diseases. Since genetic testing and genome sequencing is still fairly new in the veterinary medicine world she is still in the early stages of her testing as well. She has some hopeful results in being able to find genetic links in bearded collies. She hopes to help breeders make better-informed breeding decisions.
Vector-borne Infections and Autoimmune Disease: What is the Link?
This was a very technical presentation done by Dr. Linda Kidd. Some of the information was above our understanding so we will try to convey our understanding in the best way possible. Dr. Kidd started by speaking about how vector-borne diseases can be very similar to autoimmune disease and this can cause them to be miss diagnosed. Some autoimmune diseases that can look like vector-borne are hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, and polyarthritis. Vector-borne diseases include various fevers and anemias from ticks and other insects. These two are not always thought to be similar and the treatment can be different. Autoimmune diseases can have some seasonality to them so if they occur at the same time so vector-borne diseases are also occurring then it can be very challenging to diagnose. She stated it is important for any vet to have both of these on their differential diagnosis when presented with a case that may look like either one. Repeat testing is important even if you have a negative tick panel or if they are not responding to a treatment program.
The emergence of Canine Leptospirosis: Coming Soon to a Puddle Near You?
Leptospirosis (Lepto) is not a newly emerging disease, but people may overlook the severity of it because there is a vaccine for it. Lepto is zoonotic, so it is spread from animal to human. Lepto is a bacterial disease that affects dogs. Lepto is usually carried by wildlife.
Lepto is dangerous because of how easily transmitted the disease can be spread. It is spread through affected water, once an affected animal has urinated and the drinks that water, the dog can become affected. Lepto can be spread through wounds, bites, and ingestion of an infected animal. The scary part of Lepto is that it can even spread through objects like water bowls and shared bedding. It can even spread through dogs barking and in the air. The vaccine is one way to prevent Lepto, but the vaccine is usually most effective for puppies and least effective for seniors. Another prevention is to avoid sitting water. Understanding what Lepto is key in preventing and treating the disease.
The genus Bartonella and Vasoproliferative Cancers in Dogs and Humans
Bartonella is a zoonotic bacterium that is spread by blood-sucking arthropods, so fleas and ticks. There are some animal reservoirs like rats, mosquitos and other wildlife, the biggest culprit being fleas. Bartonella is frequently underdiagnosed. There may be a link between hemangiosarcoma and Bartonella. In a dog with Bartonella, common signs are cardiac and splenic hemangiosarcomas (HSA). Dr. Breitschwerdt’s study is looking at blood and tumor samples from patients with HSA to determine the prevalence of Bartonella and if there is a geographical prevalence of it. He reported that 7/10 dogs HSA had Bartonella in them. Although his study is still ongoing, the link between Bartonella and hemangiosarcoma may be how to treat, cure or possibly prevent HSA cancer in the future.
Advances in Immunotherapy for Canine Cancer
Propranolol is a common drug used to treat heart disease; it is a beta-blocker. Dr. Dickerson’s research is looking at its use to treat hemangiosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma is an in testing cancer because it is dog-specific. Humans have a similar type called angiosarcoma. In the past, doxorubicin was used to treat hemangiosarcoma, but dogs were becoming resistant. The more doxorubicin used, the more resistant cancer became due to the increase of the size lysosome compartment the surviving cells had. Dr. Dickerson’s research combines doxorubicin with Propranolol to stop tumor growth and even block the essential tumor survival pathways. Although exactly how propranolol works against hemangiosarcoma is still to be discovered. And that is what Dr. Dickerson is working to discover. The results of the dogs being treated with both the beta-blocker and chemotherapy appear to look promising. Currently, Dr. Dickerson’s study is to look at the efficiency of propranolol with chemotherapy, so stayed tuned to see the results of her study!
Propranolol a Hemangiosarcoma: The Light at the End of the Tunnel is Getting Brighter, and it’s NOT a Train!
Dr. Modiano is doing a lot of research with Canine Hemangiosarcoma. What they know today is that hemangiosarcoma begins with the nurse cells within the bone marrow. They also know it can happen in any breed, at any age. His study is focused on trying to find a way to determine early diagnosis because they believe that is when treatment will be most effective. The hope is to one day be able to treat, delay, or possibly eliminating the chance of a tumor even developing.
Cardiac Disease of Purebred Dogs-Genetics and Beyond
Although cardiac disease is not high on the list of Spinone health issues, understanding different heart conditions are important. Subaortic Stenosis (SAS) is pressure overload on the left ventricle due to a fibrous band tissue around the aortic valve. Over time the valve will break down because it is forced to work harder and eventually oxygenated blood will leak back into the left ventricle. There are five top breeds prone to SAS. Bull Mastiff, Newfoundland, Boxer, Golden Retriever, and Rottweiler. On the genetic side, it was discovered the SAS in Newfs is Autosomal Dominant. It is very easy to track because it is passed to the offspring and it is related to Chromosome 13. The Bullmastiff, Golden Retriever, and Rottweiler’s SAS is Autosomal Recessive. It is harder to track because it will pop up randomly. One can have generations of clear dogs and then have offspring that will have SAS.
With SAS life expectancy varies depends on the severity. Severe SAS with no treatment will live about 19 months or 4-5 years with Beta-Blockers. Mild SAS may be clinically silent.
Another cardiac disease is Pulmonic Stenosis (PS). There is pressure on the right ventricle that causes hypertrophy or thickening on the ventricle. If Pulmonic Stenosis is untreated, the dog can live 2 years or 3-5 with beta-blockers. Other cardiac diseases include Atrial Fibrillation which is an autosomal dominant trait. Dilated Cardiomyopathy is related to the PDK4 gene. Dr. Stern and his team are currently doing a study to look at the causes of many of the cardiac diseases. They have been able to get a handle on the genetic component of these diseases, but something else as there. Based on Dr. Stern’s studies 17 new breeds have developed DCM in the last 2 years, proving that it is not only genetic. Dr. Stern and his team continue to research into what other factors may cause DCM. He mentioned that have too much data is never an issue!
Understanding Dog Breeds as Populations
Dr. Bell had a very interesting speech. He shed light on breeding dogs. He started off by saying dogs are inbred, and the whole crowd gasped! The truth is our dogs are inbred, that is because they are a breed. We need inbreeding to create breeds. The problem today is that we have bred for such extremes because they do well in the show ring. Some of the extreme traits we have been selecting for have for a disease to go along with them due to the buildup of homologous genes. People continue to breed dogs with such extremities because those are the dogs that win. Dr.Bell strongly suggested the need for more judge's education and the need to breed better, healthier dogs, not just breed what is winning in the ring.
Dr. Bell also brought up and interesting point on genetic testing. Although genetic testing is a wonderful tool in some breeds, genetic testing should not be to completely eliminate every dog. Just because a dog is a carrier doesn’t mean you should drop him from your breeding program. The purpose of genetic tests is to be able to make SMARTER decisions and not to ELIMINATE dogs. Eliminating several dogs in a smaller breed (like the Spinone) just for being a carrier is detrimental to a breed.
Development and Utilization of a Genetic Risk Assessment for a Multifactorial Disease
Dr. Clark gave an awesome talk on her research on dermatomyositis (DMS) in Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs. I won’t focus too much on her current research because it is very breed-specific, but instead, I want to shed light on what she taught me about breeding. Out of the talks, it was hers that I felt like I truly learned a lot. I did not realize that with genetic diseases that having the gene is not usually enough to cause the disease, there is an environmental aspect to it as well. With DMS other breeds have the allele but Collies and Shelties have unusually high frequencies across both breeds. Eliminating dogs with very high frequencies is not an option because most of the breed would be gone. Dr. Clark continued to support Dr. Bell’s argument from earlier. Genetic testing a great tool and it should be used to determine appropriate breeding partners to produce healthier offspring. Dr. Clark also brought up an interesting point of over genetic testing. Although DMS can be seen in other breeds, and other dogs can have the genetic marker, an environmental factor needs to occur for the dog to have DMS. Just because you have the gene does not mean you have the disease. She said If It Is Not a Problem, Don’t Make It a Problem. DMS is not a huge health concern with our spins. Yes, we can DNA test for DMS, but do not start eliminating dogs because they are carriers for diseases that are so rarely seen in that particular breed.