The Future Of Equine Genetics?


Thanks to innovations in science over the past several decades, genomic testing and profiling has become accessible to the masses. Services like 23andMe and allow customers to learn about their ethnicity, pre-dispositions to disease, biologic tendencies and more, simply by submitting a saliva sample via mail or at a doctor’s office.

Stop and think for a moment how useful, and in many ways life-changing, this has become for humans. We now have the ability, if we so choose, to identify our susceptibility to devastating diseases, allowing us to take a more proactive and informed approach to our health.

Now, imagine what this could mean for horses, specifically Thoroughbreds, of both the on and off-track variety.

With horses, we can take this one step further. Not only could genetic profiling help horse owners know what disease and trait predispositions to plan and manage for in their horses, but such information could play a significant role in breeding decisions all together.

“Federal funding [for genomic research] has played a major role in the advancement of this science, as it is of great benefit to people’s health. The same is true for animals in food production, such as cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals we eat, again because it can be of significant benefit to our health as humans,” said Dr. Paul Szauter, a researcher with a focus on both human and equine genetics. “It looks bad to use federal funding for genomic testing on horses, mainly because there would be no direct benefit to our health. Therefore, funding for such animals falls to the private sector, and as a result, comparatively very little has been done. Compared to the more than 5,000 identified conditions that can be tested for in human genes, there have only been 16 identified in horses.”

That last sentence should end with, “so far,” as Szauter and his team are well on their way to changing that.
Szauter is the chief scientific officer at EquiSeq, a start-up biotechnology firm that analyzes the genetic material of horses to offer valuable genetically-based matings insight and ultimately improve breeding results. He and his team are currently looking for owners of Thoroughbred and Arabian horses to take part in a genetic testing study aimed at identifying genetic markers for a number of conditions, most notably Recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (RER), or “tying up.”

“Tying up happens most often in Thoroughbreds and Arabians and we are looking at a genetic variant that is associated with the condition,” explained Szauter, who said Thoroughbreds are of particular interest because their breeding records are so carefully documented.

“Owners who agree to take part in the study will receive a kit, which contains a detailed list of questions about the horse’s health, a tube in which to collect a small blood sample and a consent form for the owner to sign. Every DNA sample we get is useful because they either have an absolutely clean bill of health or they are in the five-to-ten percent of horses that have experienced an episode of RER or are pre-disposed to it.”

Every owner that takes part in the study will, within six to eight weeks, receive a link to a genetic profile of their horse and can choose to make the horse’s profile public.

The more horses Szauter and his team add to their study, the more markers they will be able to identify in horses.

“Within a few years we hope to have hundreds, if not thousands, of samples from Thoroughbreds, which will allow us to identify many more markers,” said Szauter, who added that as new markers for traits and health conditions are identified, the online genetic profiles of horses within the study will be updated.

“The amount of information available on each horse’s online genetic profile will grow over time and be updated retroactively. These people are going through the trouble of getting us the DNA and information, so we want to provide them something in return,” said Szauter. read more…

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Why Tennis Balls Might be Harmful for Your #Dog


Ah yes, the infamous tennis ball. As any dog lover knows, dogs and tennis balls go together like peanut butter and jelly. Once you pick up a tennis ball, most dog’s eyes immediately become crazed with joy and they can’t contain their excitement for the life of them because finally, someone is going to throw the ball. Dogs take so much pride in catching a ball and bringing it back (well, sometimes bringing it back), we just love watching them play.

Playing fetch is great exercise, as well as a great way for you to bond with your dog, but it’s also important to keep our pups safe, and unfortunately, tennis balls pose a potential danger to our adored pooches teeth. I know firsthand from one of my dogs, that pups might think pulling at the fur on tennis balls is just the greatest thing ever. Sometimes I throw a ball and instead of bringing it back, he decides to sit down in the grass and chew the ball instead!

While many dogs are tennis ball chewers, their favorite pastime could pose a problem to the health of their teeth. Here’s my very own ball enthusiast waiting for me to throw the ball…

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, “Dogs that chew on tennis balls or other abrasive toys (think of a tennis ball as a scouring pad), will often wear their smaller front cheek teeth (premolars), and the back aspect of the canines.” If your dog chews often on tennis balls, you could notice the tooth wear as the tips of your dog’s teeth become less sharp.

Tennis balls, albeit a cheap and fun activity for your dog, pose yet another health problem. For large dogs, their strong jaws are capable of compressing a tennis ball. The problem? If the compressed ball pops back open in the back of their throat, it’s possible for the dog’s air supply to be cut off, ultimately killing them, which was the sad fate of one of Oprah Winfrey’s dogs.

If you wouldn’t dream of taking away your dog’s beloved tennis balls and are confident in the safety of playing with them, you could allow your pup to have tennis balls. Just make sure you follow these tips to ensure your dog’s safety:

  • Throw away any tennis balls that have excessive wear, dirt, or look “fuzzy” from chewing.
  • Don’t let your dog play with tennis balls unsupervised and try to limit their time chewing.
  • If your dog chews on tennis balls excessively, make sure to check their teeth periodically.

When your dog is playing with a tennis ball, it’s also wise to only allow one ball to be played with at a time. This minimizes the risk of having your dog trying to pick up more than one ball and getting one of them lodged back in their throat. After playing fetch, be sure to put the balls away so there are no accidents when you’re not watching or are away from the house.

What to Use Instead of Tennis Balls

Thankfully, there are much safer dog toys available to use instead of tennis balls. Smooth balls still allow for a fun game of chase, but there is no danger to the dog’s teeth if they do want to bite down on the ball. So, what are some options instead of a tennis ball? read more…

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Heat Illness Risk for #Pets


“We understand many families want to take pets with them while they run errands, but this sets you and your loved companion up for a bad situation,” said Erica Little, Environmental Health Administrator. “In as little as 10 minutes, the temperature in your car can rise 20 degrees. Your car can quickly become a heat trap that puts your loved pet at danger of serious illness or even death.”

The Health Department provided these tips to keep animals safe during the summer heat:
• Do not leave a pet unattended in a hot car.
• Always make sure pets have access to cool, clean, fresh water as well as adequate food and shelter.
• Walk your dog in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. If you must walk mid-day, shorten the distance. And keep your dog in the grass as much as possible, as hot sidewalks can burn the pads of their feet.
• Do not leave a dog outdoors unattended on a chain or tether. Long-term chaining during the summer can result in countless insect bites, dehydration and heat stroke.

Kids, seniors and those with mental or physical illnesses have the highest risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are: heavy sweating, paleness, fatigue, muscle cramps, fainting or nausea.

If someone has heat stroke, their body temperature rises to above 104°F and they may show signs of red, hot or dry skin, a rapid pulse, throbbing headache or unconsciousness.

To protect against illnesses like these:
• Drink plenty of water, avoiding extremely cold drinks.
• Avoid strenuous work/exercise and stay in an air-conditioned area.
• Wear loose, light clothing and protect yourself from the sun.
• Try to not be outside during the hottest times.

read more…

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Who doesn’t love giraffes?


Who doesn’t love giraffes? Their grace, their markings that are as unique as human fingerprints, their long, tough tongues that can extend a foot or longer to navigate sharp acacia thorns, and even their hair-covered “horns” (called ossicones) —all these traits are endearing.

So endearing, in fact, that zoos around the world set aside the longest day of the year every year to celebrate the world’s longest-necked animal.

Giraffes in Danger of Disappearing

Giraffes, with their long legs and necks swaying in a kind of slow-motion ballet, are regal and majestic. They are the tallest living land animal, with females reaching a height of 14 to 16 feet and males towering over us at 16 to 18 feet.

This enigmatic African animal has long had a secret: Recent genetic analysis suggests that the giraffe is not one, but four separate species: the southern giraffe, found mainly in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana; the Masai giraffe, of Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia; the reticulated giraffe, found mainly in Kenya, Somalia and southern Ethiopia; and the northern giraffe in scattered groups in the north central and northeastern parts of Africa.

All of these giraffe species have one important thing in common. They are all threatened with extinction and must be protected, with special attention paid to the northern and reticulated giraffe species, each with fewer than 10,000 individuals.

Giraffes are already extinct in seven African countries, and the total number of giraffes in the wild has dropped from more than 140,000 in the late 1990s to fewer than 100,000 today.

Why this decline? Habitat loss due to war, road-building, oil drilling, mining and agriculture have caused the loss of this species. In addition, in some areas giraffes are threatened by hunting and intense bush meat poaching.

They are killed for their tails, which are used for marriage dowries, and their leg bones, which are carved to look like ivory. Some Tanzanians are convinced that eating giraffe brains and bone marrow can cure HIV/Aids.

Your Zoo Cares About Giraffes in Africa

The Saint Louis Zoo has been working to save threatened species in the wild through its Wild Care Institute Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa, which supports field conservation of reticulated giraffes and other species in northern Kenya through the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). NRT is a community-led, nongovernmental organization established 13 years ago by a coalition of local leaders, politicians and conservation interests. Its mission is to develop resilient community conservancies, which transform lives, secure peace and conserve natural resources. read more…

Never heard of a 35 lb #cat?


Meet Symba, a really really – really – fat cat.

Weighing in at 35 pounds, this feline is at the Humane Rescue Alliance in D.C. and is need of a home.

Staffers of the humane rescue group posed with the 6-year-old fat cat and posted the pictures on social media.

In their post, they wrote, staff “has seen a lot – but we’ve never seen a 35 pound cat!” The cat is available for adoption at its New York Avenue location in Washington, D.C.

The Humane Rescue Alliance told Symba’s story:

The fat feline came last week to the facility. Officials said his owner moved to an assisted living center and couldn’t bring Symba with him.

The cat’s owner told the staff over the phone that Symba weighed nearly 40 pounds. The staff was surprised to hear that weight and “thought surely he must be overestimating,” they said in a blog that now tracks Symba’s life and new weight loss program.

But when Symba came to the humane rescue site, he hit the scales and weighed in at 35 pounds. (The humane rescue staff put an ! after announcing his weight.)

Staff described Symba as a “handsome fellow, with his sweet face and mellow disposition.”

Because of his obesity, Symba was given a detailed checkup, including a blood glucose test. It came back normal. But he’s about 15 pounds overweight so the alliance’s medical team said he is at an “increased risk of health complications.”

The average domestic house cat should ideally weigh between eight and 10 pounds, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Once he got settled at the shelter, the staff at the alliance got Symba on basically the cat version of “The Biggest Loser,” a TV show that tracks people’s weight loss in a contest.

“It’s difficult for him to walk at the moment, so staff are focusing on improving his diet and starting his physical activity slowly,” the staff said in its blog. read more…

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Important news about fish-oil pills, #CoQ10, and red yeast rice

cr-health-hero-fish-oil-0617Walk into any pharmacy or health-food store and you’ll see shelves of dietary supplements that promise to help your heart, such as omega-3, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and red yeast rice.

Proponents claim that these products can lower blood pressure or cholesterol, stave off heart disease, and prevent heart attacks. If you’re concerned about your heart health, should you be taking them?
What the Science Says

Omega-3 (fish oil). It’s well-established that regularly consuming foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids (see “Ticker-Friendly Foods,” below) is a bonus for heart health. But the evidence on supplements has been scant.

However, a recent scientific advisory report from the American Heart Association, published in the journal Circulation, concluded that people who have already had a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart failure may benefit from a daily 1,000-mg fish-oil supplement. For that group only, according to the AHA, this practice could reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 10 percent.

“The benefits shown in recent studies have been modest, but I think taking them is still reasonable,” says JoAnn Manson, M.D., chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

CoQ10. Supplements of this compound, which is produced by the body and found in some foods, have been promoted for the management of heart failure and alleviating muscle aches associated with cholesterol-lowering statin medications.

But conclusive evidence of its effectiveness is lacking. A 2014 review of seven small clinical trials found “no convincing evidence to support or refute” CoQ10’s use for heart failure. Another analysis found no strong evidence it reduces statin-induced muscle pain.

Red yeast rice. Red yeast rice—which is made by culturing rice with yeast—is claimed to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. However, there is little evidence to support its use—or its safety. In fact, red yeast rice is one of 15 supplement ingredients that Consumer Reports recommends consumers always avoid.
Cause for Caution

With over-the-counter dietary supplements, you don’t always know what you’re getting.

“There’s a lack of regulation, which means the content, identity, and purity of the product is not guaranteed,” says Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser, Marvin M. Lipman, M.D.

Manson agrees. “There are some high-quality supplements, but it’s very much buyer beware,” she says.

There’s also a risk that some supplements may include unwanted ingredients, interact with medications you take, or cause side effects.

For example, red yeast rice supplements can contain a chemical that’s been linked to kidney damage. It can also magnify the effects of statin drugs. CoQ10 may reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners, which are often used to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Fish-oil supplements can lead to bleeding problems when combined with prescription blood thinners.

Be sure to discuss any supplements you’re taking or considering with your physician. “You can run into serious problems with drug interactions if your doctor doesn’t know,” Manson warns. read more…

Shop your Doctor’s Best High Absorption Coq10 w/ BioPerine (100 mg), 120 Soft gels

Parasite Risk in #Sheep, #Cattle with Warm Weather


Dairy and beef cattle are at risk of husk, caused by infection with the cattle lungworm from June onwards. Unvaccinated calves, naïve adult cattle and those without an effective anthelmintic programme face the greatest threat.

Early signs of lungworm include coughing after periods of exertion and progress to more severe compromise, with coughing at rest, increased respiratory rate, and difficulty breathing. Prompt recognition and treatment is critical.

“Early intervention significantly reduces costs and the impact on productivity. A diagnosis should be sought from the farm’s vet at the first sign of symptoms, “ advises Sioned. “Treatment with a fast acting zero milk withhold wormer with up to 28 days of persistent activity, such as Eprinex® (eprinomectin) provides effective control without the loss of milk sales.”

Incidents of parasitic disease caused by gutworms, including Ostertagia ostertagi, peak in August and September, though even low levels of worm challenge can reduce growth rates by up to 30% in beef calves and dairy replacement heifers.

Strategic control with a broad-spectrum wormer such as IVOMEC® Classic (ivermectin) can reduce the impact of parasites in autumn/winter born calves in their first grazing season, and spring-born suckler claves in their second grazing season. Those animals receiving strategic treatments must remain set stocked for the entire grazing period or moved to aftermaths when they become available. read more…

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