Monday, December 10, 2012


Before we get into pet-related matters, Helpful Buckeye would like to take a moment to honor and remember one of our all-time great jazz musicians, Dave Brubeck, who passed away this week.  Way back in the early 1960s, Helpful Buckeye was beginning to appreciate the "new" style of jazz as played by Stan Getz, Vince Guaraldi, Ramsey Lewis, Harold Betters and, of course, Dave Brubeck.  I would stop at the old public library in Greensburg, PA, on my way home from school and listen to the LP albums of these jazz giants.  Even though my musical tastes have diversified, I still listen to my collection of those great old jazz legends.  For your enjoyment, listen to Dave Brubeck's best-known classic, Take Five, with Dave on the piano and featuring Paul Desmond on the saxophone:

An interesting sidelight about Dave Brubeck comes from his biography:
Intending to work with his father on their ranch, Brubeck entered the College of the Pacific (late 1930s) in Stockton, CA (now the University of the Pacific), studying veterinary science, but transferred on the urging of the head of zoology, Dr. Arnold, who told him "Brubeck, your mind's not here. It's across the lawn in the music conservatory. Please go there. Stop wasting my time and yours".   From:

Anyway, let's talk about a little "veterinary science" as it pertains to health and disease concerns of both pets and their humans.

Pets share our environment and our diseases;
doctors and vets investigating risks

When Janet Riordan returned home from a vacation, she expected a storm of tail wagging and barking from her 7-year-old golden retriever, Reggie. The moment she saw him, she knew something was wrong. “He came to me in my arms and appeared to be sobbing. I had never seen an animal behave like that,” said Riordan, who lives in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wis. A veterinarian confirmed her fears: Reggie had an aggressive form of lymphoma. Riordan knew the toll that lymphoma could take. Four years earlier her father died of it. “It was devastating,” Riordan said. “I never thought I would lose my dad and my dog to the same disease.” Pet owners share their homes, their exercise habits and sometimes even their food with their four-legged companions. And increasingly, they are sharing the same diseases: Dogs and cats suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, thyroid disorders and asthma, just like humans. Now researchers are examining the role that pollutants and other environmental factors may play in these dual diseases. Doctors and veterinarians have begun to work together to investigate common risk factors, such as pesticides, air pollutants, cigarette smoke and household chemicals.
…Pet owners share their homes, their exercise habits and sometimes even their food with their four-legged companions. And increasingly, they are sharing the same diseases: Dogs and cats suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, thyroid disorders and asthma, just like humans.
Now researchers are examining the role that pollutants and other environmental factors may play in these dual diseases. Doctors and veterinarians have begun to work together to investigate common risk factors, such as pesticides, air pollutants, cigarette smoke and household chemicals.
Pets, like many young children, often have higher exposures to lawn and garden pesticides and to household chemicals that can accumulate in dust or on carpets. “Because our pets share our environments, they are exposed to many of the same pollutants as us,” said Melissa Paoloni, a veterinary oncologist at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.
Pets, like many young children, often have higher exposures to lawn and garden pesticides and to household chemicals that can accumulate in dust or on carpets.
Scientific research is beginning to reveal some links between their environment and their health. Lawn care chemicals may increase the risk of canine lymphoma and bladder cancer. Cats exposed to flame retardants have a higher rate of thyroid disease, according to one study. And researchers are launching the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the largest project ever to tackle disease prevention and treatment in dogs.
“People are beginning to realize the untapped resource that companion animals present for research in human health,” said Rodney Page, director of the Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Center.
Studies in pets can never replace studies in humans, but they can present corroborating evidence. Linking pollutants to human health effects can prove controversial, “but if we can find the same links in dogs or cats, that can have a powerful effect,” said John Reif, a Colorado State University veterinarian and epidemiologist. “It’s one more piece of evidence that the link is a real one.”
…Malignant lymphoma in dogs closely resembles non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. More than 60,000 Americans a year are diagnosed with the disease, making it the sixth most common cancer in the United States.
“The close interaction and shared household environments of dogs and their human owners provides a unique opportunity for evaluating how herbicide and pesticide exposure may contribute to human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” the study authors wrote.
Pesticides may increase the risk of the disease in people, too. Last year, Danish researchers found that people with high levels of DDT and other organochlorine pesticides were more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma years later.
“Clearly dogs are not humans, but physiologically speaking, they are very similar,” said Lisa Barber, a veterinary oncologist at Tufts University and study author.
“The most heartbreaking thing is their short lifespan. It’s also what makes them useful models for human disease,” she said. Because dogs live accelerated lives compared with humans, researchers can gather information on a lifetime of exposure much more quickly than in people.
Using animals as sentinels for human health is not a new concept. More than 100 years ago, miners took caged canaries into coal mines to warn them of toxic gases.
Pets also played an important role in drawing a link between asbestos and mesothelioma. In the 1980s, researchers found high levels of asbestos fibers in the lungs of pet dogs diagnosed with the lung disease. The finding helped increase understanding of the threats that asbestos posed to people, said Reif from Colorado State.
More recently, researchers have found that ozone, the main ingredient of smog, may contribute to asthma in cats, and household tobacco smoke may be a risk factor for nose, throat and lung cancers in dogs.
A rise in hyperthyroidism in cats also has been linked to brominated flame retardants, which are used in upholstery and electronics and contaminate dust and canned cat foods. Cats with overactive thyroids – which can lead to weight loss, increased appetite, hyperactivity and death – had higher blood levels of the chemicals, according to one small study led by Environmental Protection Agency scientists.
Brominated fire retardants, used in upholstery and electronics, have been linked to an increase in hyperthyroidism in cats.
Because of their meticulous grooming habits, cats may ingest a lot of dust. The link to hyperthyroidism in felines “should be alarming to parents of crawling toddlers who explore their environments by putting everything in their mouths,” said Donna Mensching, veterinary medical director of the Washington Poison Center in Seattle.
Toddlers with high exposure to the flame retardants have lower IQs, according to one study. The chemicals also have been linked to altered thyroid hormones in pregnant women, which might harm a baby’s brain development.
Looking at the way environmental pollutants might interact with genetics in animal breeds susceptible to certain diseases may benefit human health as well.
“We know something about their breed history and susceptibility to certain diseases, which may make it easier to tease out gene-environment interactions,” said Dr. Robert A. Hiatt, an epidemiologist at the University of San Francisco and a former family physician.
The functions of certain genes are very similar in dogs and humans, according to Hiatt. “What we learn from pets may also be applicable to humans,” he said.
…“We can cure anything in a mouse, but so many times new drugs fail miserably when taken straight from lab animals to human trials,” said Heather Wilson-Robles, a veterinary oncologist at Texas A&M University.
Dogs and cats develop diseases spontaneously for many of the same reasons people do, which means experts can predict from pets how a new drug may act in humans. “Mouse models are really important in the development of new treatments, but we are skipping a step when we take a drug from lab animals to humans without first looking to our veterinary patients,” Wilson-Robles said.

Are Animal-Borne Diseases on the Rise?

From hantavirus to bird flu to West Nile, diseases crossing from animals to people is becoming more common thanks to global warming.
A string of recent reports of people falling ill and dying of diseases that spread to people from animals might have you wondering: Are animal-borne diseases on the rise?
This summer, three people died and eight were infected with hantavirus -- a disease carried by rodents -- after visiting Yosemite National Park; a Colorado girl reportedly contracted the plague from flea bites she received while camping; researchers reported the cases of two Missouri men infected with a never-before-seen virus carried by ticks; and nearly 2,000 people across the United States fell ill with West Nile virus, which is carried by mosquitoes.
Experts say the number of new diseases crossing from animals to people has indeed increased in recent years, from fewer than 20 in the 1940s to about 50 in the 1980s, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Nature. Between 1990 and 2000, more than half of newly identified infectious diseases originated in wildlife, the study says.
It's possible the increase is partly due to better detection of diseases, as well as new technologies that allow researchers to better study viruses, said Tony Goldberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine.
But there is also evidence the rise represents a true increase in the number of diseases that spread to people from animals. "The general feeling is that something is changing," Goldberg said.
Global changes, including movement of people, deforestation and climate change, may all be contributing to the more rapid emergence of animal-borne diseases in people, Goldberg said.
For instance, the ticks that carry Lyme disease prefer the type of habitats that arise when forests are fragmented, as occurs with deforestation, Goldberg said. Deforestation is sometimes done for the development of new housing complexes close to the wilderness, bringing people into contact with these ticks, he said.
Global travel also allows diseases to spread quickly around the world. It's thought that West Nile virus, which arrived in New York City in 1999, came here from Europe or the Middle East, Goldberg said. The virus was first seen in Africa in the 1930s.
It's likely the next big infectious disease that will pose a threat to humans will come from animals, Goldberg said.
"That’s what almost everybody will put their money on," he said.
About three-quarters of all known human infectious diseases cross directly from animals to humans (like West Nile virus), or came from animals in the recent past (such as HIV), Goldberg said.
Avoiding risky interactions between animals and people, and educating people about ways to avoid exposure to animal-borne diseases, may help reduce the risk of new infectious diseases, Goldberg said.
Vaccinating people and animals to eradicate diseases in certain areas may also help, but such vaccination programs tend to be costly, he said.

Humans are disrupting the natural balance
By Sharon Deem
The growing list of diseases that threaten both wildlife conservation and human public health have been the recent focus of articles, editorials and cartoons, in newspapers from the Post-Dispatch to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. This coverage includes stories on such familiar diseases as white nose syndrome in bats, West Nile virus, avian influenza, Lyme disease and chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease causing so many amphibian deaths that a range of these species are close to extinction.
These "emerging infectious diseases" — scientists call them EIDs — have increased significantly in animal, human and plant populations in the last two decades, and evidence points to the link between these diseases and the environmental changes that we — Homo sapiens — are causing across the globe.
Indeed, it is the human-domination of Earth that inspired the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen and his colleagues to rename the geological epoch as the Anthropocene: humans now are the drivers of changes on Earth. We soon may be saying goodbye to the Holocene, our geological era of the last 10,000 years! If one considers today's interconnected world, we know that the global movement of people, animals and products, changing climates, fragmented and modified landscapes and invasive species all are responsible for a number of these diseases. 
A case in point is the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats. We are witness to what has occurred in the previous 18 states where the loss of millions of bats already has happened. We can comfortably predict a similar outcome in Missouri if preventive measures do not succeed.
Typically, when these diseases strike, we blame the animal and often ignore the positive role wildlife plays in protecting us — bats are a great example of an animal that plays a necessary role in reducing pests from our ecosystem. A single Missouri gray bat eats up to 300,000 insects each year. It also plays a critical role in pollinating plants, increasing the amount of food available to all of us.
The loss of the free pest removal service bats provide is likely to increase the incidence of human infectious diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other insect vectors. In fact, we could be hit by a double-whammy: greater incidence of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, like the West Nile virus, and humans could suffer side effects from increased exposure to pesticides because of the need to use more chemicals to kill the pests the bats once ate.
Fortunately, the St. Louis Zoo has taken a leadership role in creating an institute and forging partnerships to conduct research and analyze the best ways to combat these threats. Through the Zoo's Institute for Conservation Medicine, we are analyzing the link between the health of wildlife, humans and ecosystems to better understand and manage the diseases that threaten the conservation of wildlife species, human public health and ecosystem function. Only through the institute's holistic approach involving teams of scientists can we ensure these complex health issues are addressed appropriately and that our science is translated into action with preventive solutions.
One thing scientists realize in the battle to curb the spread of disease is that we should not reach for short-term fixes that in the long run jeopardize the survival of animals and the health of humans. Rather, we must focus on prevention as the key to public health, herd health and agricultural system health. Preventive measures are rooted in a deep understanding of disease epidemiology. One must understand how a disease spreads in order to identify factors that can prevent its occurrence.
In the end, however, perhaps the most difficult change we all must make is to shift our behavior and values. Humans react to crises. Most people must have a heart attack before admitting that their drinking, smoking or eating habits truly were detrimental. Human immunodeficiency virus became a worldwide killer before people took basic preventive measures.
We can argue that the recent interest in emerging infectious diseases is, in fact, reactionary — that the world is in a current EID crisis. We all need to realize that reacting to an infectious disease pandemic, whether in bats or people, instead of preventing one, is simply bad medicine.
Dr. Sharon Deem is director of the St. Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine. She is an epidemiologist and veterinarian.
What Is the World’s Most Dangerous Animal?
Sharks? Lions? Grizzly bears? Try bats.
By Tara C. Smith
Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. —Albert Camus, The Plague
In May, 1997, a 3-year-old boy was admitted to an ICU in Hong Kong after suffering from influenza for a week. Two days later, the boy died of pneumonia. His case would have been merely a curiosity if it weren’t for 17 more patients who came down with the illness months later. In all, six people died from a strain of influenza that had never been seen in humans before, dubbed H5N1.
However, H5N1 wasn’t really “new.” It had caused outbreaks in Scottish chickens in 1959 and British turkeys in 1991. It had killed geese in Guangdong, China, in 1996. But these bird outbreaks weren’t considered important by physicians or researchers on human disease—this was an avian strain of influenza, and it was thought that humans had little to be concerned about. That changed abruptly in 1997, when the human cases led to the destruction of 1.3 million chickens in Hong Kong in an effort to stop the outbreak. That strategy seemed to work in the short term, but H5N1 has since surfaced in more than two dozen countries and caused more than 600 human infections since 1997—almost half of them fatal.
While scientists were closely following the movements of H5N1, another influenza virus—H1N1—snuck up on us in 2009 and spread around the world in a matter of weeks. This was the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century, and like H5N1, it moved to humans from animals—in this case, from pigs.
When new infectious diseases are discovered, one of the first questions is “where did this come from?” More often than not, the answer is one of our animal friends—a kind of disease called a zoonosis. Studies have shown that about 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases (diseases that are newly discovered, are increasing in frequency, or have moved into a new geographic area) are of animal origin, as are 60 percent of all known pathogens. Even diseases that have spread freely in the human population, such as tuberculosis, HIV, measles, and smallpox, have their roots in infections carried by animals.
Which animals are the most likely to harbor zoonotic pathogens?  Bats.
For reasons that are not currently understood, bats are able to be infected with a huge variety of viruses. They pass these viruses to other animal species via bites or guano. The classic bat-origin virus is rabies, but bats have also been implicated as possible reservoir species for the Ebola and Marburg viruses, Nipah, Hendra, and others. Even influenza has recently been found in bats. Bats also appear to be the reservoir for the SARS coronavirus, which surfaced in 2002 in Asia. SARS eventually infected more than 8,000 individuals around the world and killed almost 800 of them between November 2002 and July 2003, spreading to at least 37 countries. A new SARS-related virus has recently surfaced in Saudi Arabia, and speculation is that it’s also from bats.
Other Wild Animals
While bats appear to be responsible for a disproportionate amount of novel pathogens, every animal species carries its own unique microbiota—the collection of microbes that live on and in an animal’s body. Some of those can also spread to humans. As mentioned above, birds can spread many different types of influenza viruses. In fact, wild waterfowl serve as the ultimate reservoir for all known types of influenza viruses. Birds also can transmit a number of encephalitis viruses, such as West Nile. Because many migrate long distances, birds may be particularly efficient at introducing pathogens into new areas.
Primates also harbor a number of pathogens that have crossed over into human populations, often an easy jump since we are so closely related. HIV is the result of multiple species jumps from nonhuman primates into human populations, likely due to butchering of infected animals. Research carried out by Nathan Wolfe and others has shown that bushmeat hunters in Africa are still being infected with viruses from our primate relatives.
Rats and mice, of course, have long been associated with disease. Plague-infected fleas on rats spread Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for the Black Death. We know today that other species carry the fleas that can also transmit this pathogen—including much cuter prairie dogs in the southwestern United States. Mice have recently been implicated in an outbreak of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Yosemite National Park that has killed three and sickened at least 10 campers. Mice carry this virus without showing symptoms and spread it to humans via urine and feces.
Livestock and Pets
The domestication of livestock and the taming of animals for pets certainly marked a turning point in human history. Having these animals on hand to provide food and milk, as well as companionship and assistance with hunting, gave humans a more ready food supply and meant less time had to be spent gathering food. However, it also put us in regular contact with germs that these animals carried. Human measles virus infections may have evolved from a similar cattle virus, rinderpest. Cattle can also be a source of tuberculosis in humans, even today. Industrial livestock production means that it’s not just a farm family that may be sickened by pathogens from a pig or cow, but potentially hundreds or thousands who consume meat or other products from those animals. Foodborne illnesses are estimated to sicken 76 million people yearly in the United States and kill approximately 5,000. Economic costs from these food-borne illnesses alone are estimated at approximately $77 billion per year.
Finally, our smaller domesticated friends can expose us to their own pathogens, including the parasite Toxoplasma gondii in cats (which is particularly dangerous to pregnant women), and they can also bring along unintended visitors and their pathogens into the home in the form of fleas and ticks. Even “pocket pets” such as hamsters and guinea pigs can bring along potentially deadly viruses and infect their owners.
So, Why Aren’t We All Dead?
With so many potentially deadly organisms lurking in the animal species we share the Earth with, the question becomes not if we’ll have another novel pandemic, but when. However, these events—the new influenzas, the SARS coronaviruses, the HIV outbreaks—are actually relatively rare. “Spillover” events—an individual becoming infected with a zoonotic pathogen—are common, but typically the infected host is a dead end. He or she doesn’t spread the germ to a second person, which is a necessary factor for an epidemic (which is a localized outbreak) or a pandemic (a worldwide infection) to occur. Going back to H5N1 influenza versus H1N1, that’s why the former has caused only sporadic outbreaks and the latter has become pandemic. H1N1 is readily transmissible between people, and H5N1 (so far) is not. This is also why there was so much concern earlier this year when a genetically-modified H5N1 was created in a laboratory setting. This modified virus was able to spread readily between ferrets, a common animal model for human influenza research. The work caused worry that such a virus may escape from a lab and spread in the wild—The Stand come to life.
This controversy also highlights the difficulty in studying potential zoonotic pathogens. Many of these organisms have adapted to their hosts and do not always cause symptoms in their “natural” species. As such, it’s difficult to anticipate which microbes will 1) make the species jump successfully; 2) cause illness in the new host species (for example, in humans); and 3) transmit efficiently among members of the new host species. Prediction right now is very foggy, though we’re beginning to better understand the diversity of organisms out there, and with that, hopefully gain understanding into why some spill over and others do not.
One final note—while we often consider humans the victims of such pandemic events, that’s not always the case. Zoonoses are a two-way street, and humans can also spread our own native microbes to other species. Recent studies have shown that humans have spread antibiotic-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus to many different species, including domestic chickens, pigs, and even chimpanzees and dolphins. We, too, are a walking biohazard.

Adapted from:

Call for global monitoring of infectious diseases
in dogs and cats
Most emerging infectious diseases of humans come from animals. International health agencies monitor these diseases, but they do so only for humans and livestock, not for companion dogs and cats. A new study recommends a global system is needed to monitor infectious diseases of companion dogs and cats.
The study, led by Michael Day, Professor of Veterinary Pathology in the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol and published online in Emerging Infectious Diseases, lists key infectious diseases that may be transmitted between dogs and cats and man ('zoonotic diseases'). It is well recognised that most of the major new diseases of mankind will have an animal origin and dogs and cats are a potential source of such 'emerging diseases'.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) One Health Committee, which promotes the closer integration of human and animal healthcare ('One Health') in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO), recommends in the paper a co-ordinated global disease monitoring system is established for veterinarians who work in small companion animal practice.
However, development of such a scheme would require significant political will, scientific application and financial support that could be achieved through a public-private partnership. The knowledge gained through surveillance would permit more effective global control of small companion animal zoonoses and so reduce the risks inherent within this most fundamental of human relationships.
Canine rabies virus infection, one of the diseases listed in the paper, is estimated to kill a minimum of 55,000 people in Africa and Asia each year.
Michael Day, Professor of Veterinary Pathology in the School of Veterinary Sciences, said: "The number of small companion animals is significant. For example there are an estimated eight to ten million dogs living in up to 31 per cent of UK homes and in the USA, 72 million dogs in 37 per cent of homes.
"In developed countries the relationship between man and dogs and cats has deepened, with these animals now closely sharing the human indoor environment. The benefits of pet ownership on human health, well-being and development are unquestionable, but as dogs and cats have moved from the barn, to the house, to the bedroom, the potential for disease spread to humans increases. Control of diseases among dogs and cats is a good way to prevent spread to humans."
Small companion animals, most typically dogs and cats, are kept by people for companionship or a range of utilitarian purposes. Dogs and cats have a close relationship with their human owners and play an important role in the cultures of both developed and developing communities. The social and societal benefits of pet ownership are significant, with dogs now participating in programmes in institutions such as schools, prisons and hospitals, in addition to their role in family life.  
In human, livestock and wildlife heath there are programmes of active surveillance for infectious disease, which monitor the global distribution and movement of key infectious agents. For example, the WHO monitors human influenza virus infection through a network of 111 centres in 83 countries. In contrast, there is no such monitoring for the infections that may be transmitted between small companion animals and man.
Adapted from:

As always, please send any questions and/or comments to Helpful Buckeye at:
The Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team has been rounding into good shape for the beginning of the conference schedule, having only lost at Duke.  We're probably not the best team in the country right now but we are solidly in the top 10.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost everything they gained last week by losing badly to the Chargers in Pittsburgh.  Following the really important win last week in Baltimore, this loss  might have been a season killer....
Helpful Buckeye has been pretty successful with Christmas Cactuses over the years.  I currently have 4 different varieties going, with each one blooming at a slightly different time of the winter.  The first 2 have come and gone for this season, while the third one is in beautiful fullness right now.  The fourth one (also the oldest one) is on target for a Christmas week display.
Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have already entertained more guests this holiday season than in recent memory, probably due to Desperado being more pain-free than in the past few years.  And, there are still a couple of weeks to go before the big holiday more guests.  We're really thankful that she has been doing so well!
Let's finish this issue with another classic from Dave Brubeck, Kathy's Waltz:
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.