TAG: "Veterinary medicine"

Researchers ID gene mutation for heart disease in Newfoundland dogs


Information could help gradually eliminate the disease from the breed.

Newfoundlands — those massive, furry, black dogs — have captured many a heart with their hallmark size, sweet nature and loyalty. Unfortunately these gentle giants’ own hearts are all too often afflicted with a potentially lethal congenital disease called subvalvular aortic stenosis, or SAS, which also affects children and other dog breeds including the golden retriever.

A team of researchers led by UC Davis veterinary cardiologist Joshua Stern has for the first time identified a gene mutation responsible for canine SAS, the most common inherited heart disease in dogs. The study appears online in the journal Human Genetics: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24898977.

“Our hope now is that breeders will be able to make informed breeding decisions and avoid breeding dogs that harbor this mutation, thus gradually eliminating the disease from the Newfoundland breed,” Stern said. “In addition, now that we know one gene responsible for SAS and more about which proteins are involved, we can move forward to consider novel therapies that may help treat this devastating condition.”

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Neutering health effects more severe for golden retrievers than Labradors


UC Davis study finds higher rates of certain joint disorders and cancers in Labradors.

Incidence rates of both joint disorders and cancers at various neuter ages are much more pronounced in golden retrievers (left) than in the Labrador retrievers, UC Davis researchers found.

Labrador retrievers are less vulnerable than golden retrievers to the long-term health effects of neutering, as evidenced by higher rates of certain joint disorders and devastating cancers, according to a new study by researchers at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Results of the study now appear online in the open-access journal PLOS ONE at http://tiny.cc/tia0ix.

“We found in both breeds that neutering before the age of 6 months, which is common practice in the United States, significantly increased the occurrence of joint disorders – especially in the golden retrievers,” said lead investigator Benjamin Hart, a distinguished professor emeritus in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

“The data, however, showed that the incidence rates of both joint disorders and cancers at various neuter ages were much more pronounced in golden retrievers than in the Labrador retrievers,” he said.

He noted that the findings not only offer insights for researchers in both human and veterinary medicine, but are also important for breeders and dog owners contemplating when, and if, to neuter their dogs. Dog owners in the United States are overwhelmingly choosing to neuter their dogs, in large part to prevent pet overpopulation or avoid unwanted behaviors.

This new comparison of the two breeds was prompted by the research team’s earlier study, reported in February 2013, which found a marked increase in the incidence of two joint disorders and three cancers in golden retrievers that had been neutered.

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Dairy training aims to boost Rwanda to health


UC Davis initiative is working to improve dairy cows’ health and productivity in African nation.

Cows provide Rwandan farmers with a nutrient-rich source of food for their families.

In Rwanda, the expression “have milk” — “gira amata” — is not part of a milk-mustachioed marketing campaign. It’s a wish for prosperity.

UC Davis scientists hope to make that wish come true in the small African nation, by improving dairy cows’ health and productivity — and thereby people’s health, too.

Dairying is a centuries-old enterprise in Rwanda, but production levels are quite low, and the milk is often contaminated with bacteria that pose health risks for cows and people.

“The underproduction of milk in Rwanda is heartbreaking,” said professor Ray Rodriguez, executive director of the UC Davis Global HealthShare Initiative.  Rwandan cows produce just 5 liters of milk per day on average, whereas if the cows were healthy and well cared for, they should produce 25 to 40 liters per day, he said.

Partnership with Rwanda

The UC Davis Global HealthShare Initiative is coordinating a partnership among campus scientists and students, and their colleagues in Rwanda.

The UC Davis partners are not only teaching Rwandan veterinarians, veterinary students, university faculty and government officials how to improve the health and productivity of dairy cows and the safety of milk, but how to provide the same training around Rwanda, a nation of smallholder farmers.

Faculty members on the team are Rodriguez and Jim Cullor, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and director of its Dairy Food Safety Laboratory.

Their team comprises Somen Nandi, co-founder and managing director for Global HealthShare and principal investigator for its Rwanda project, and several graduate and undergraduate students.

“It’s about feeding the kids,” Cullor said. “It’s the children of Rwanda who are our customers.”

Rodriguez added that the project also is a reminder of the international aspect of modern health issues. “All health is now global health; we can’t just look at our health in the U.S. in isolation,” he said.

Focus on mastitis and ‘rural tech’

The UC Davis team is focusing on mastitis, a bacterial infection of the cow’s udder and the most common dairy cattle disease in the United States. In Rwanda, mastitis reduces milk production, causes milk to be unfit for sale and may result in the cow’s death.

During the past year, the UC Davis team has provided training to 40 Rwandan veterinary students, university faculty and government officials, teaching them practical techniques for preventing mastitis and identifying the different types of bacteria that are likely to be found in milk.

The success of the Rwandan program relies upon developing a collaborative partnership with the Rwandan government, and identifying technologies that are appropriate for that country.

For example, sophisticated laboratory tests used in the United States are not economically practical for Rwanda. Instead, the UC Davis team is training the veterinary professionals and students to prepare petri dishes on which microbial cultures can be grown.

“It’s not low tech; we call it ‘rural tech,’” Cullor said.

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Pediatric patients welcome canine friends


UC Davis veterinary medicine students bring cheer at Josh Dog Day.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine students introduce Josh the Dog to delighted pediatric patients

Therapy dogs — even stuffed animal dogs — can do wonders for hospitalized children.

Pediatric patients in the playroom were instantly cheered this week when UC Davis veterinary medicine students visited, bringing stuffed dogs to patients and providing quick tips on how to care for them.

The visit is an annual playroom event, hosted by the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department and UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. The visit is based on the Josh and Friends Project, which helps transform anxious hospital stays for children into friendship-filled adventures to wellness.

Vet med students fundraise during the year to raise money to purchase stuffed dogs for Children’s Hospital patients.

“Our students have a passion for bringing healing to the lives of individuals, not just the four-legged kind, in our community. With this in mind, the goal of Josh Day is simple. We strive to bring hope and encouragement to the children and families of our community experiencing a medical difficulty,” said Diana Donckels, UC Davis veterinary club president.

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Cleft palate discovery in dogs to aid in understanding human birth defect


UC Davis study also shows that dogs have multiple genetic causes of cleft palate.

This puppy is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the breed with the newly discovered genetic mutation for cleft palate.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine researchers have identified the genetic mutation responsible for a form of cleft palate in the dog breed Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.

They hope that the discovery, which provides the first dog model for the craniofacial defect, will lead to a better understanding of cleft palate in humans. Although cleft palate is one of the most common birth defects in children, affecting approximately one in 1,500 live human births in the United States, it is not completely understood.

The findings appear this week online in the journal PLOS Genetics and are available online at https://tinyurl.com/knr8wb3.

“This discovery provides novel insight into the genetic cause of a form of cleft palate through the use of a less conventional animal model,” said professor Danika Bannasch, a veterinary geneticist who led the study. “It also demonstrates that dogs have multiple genetic causes of cleft palate that we anticipate will aid in the identification of additional candidate genes relevant to human cleft palate.”

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Wildfire smoke, exposure linked to reduced immune system, lung functions


Researcher studied monkeys living outdoors and exposed to pollution during 2008 widlfires.

In the study, investigators found a link between reduced immune system function and abnormalities in lung function, particularly in female animals. (Photo by Kathy West, California National Primate Research Center )

In the study, investigators found a link between reduced immune system function and abnormalities in lung function, particularly in female animals.

California wildfires in 2008 led to a natural experiment with monkeys living outdoors at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis, showing for the first time that exposure to high levels of fine particle pollution affects both development of the immune system and lung function.

“These animals were breathing the same air that we were breathing, so from a health point of view, it’s very significant,” said professor Lisa Miller, who carried out the study and leads the center’s Respiratory Diseases Unit. Miller noted that the monkeys, which live in outdoor corrals, would have received a higher dose than human residents of Davis.

In June 2008, widespread wildfires in Northern California caused notable smokiness in the Davis area. Over a period of 10 days levels of small particles classed as PM2.5 (inhalable particles smaller than 2.5 microns) at the UC Davis campus were recorded at 50 to 60 micrograms per cubic meter. Some readings reached nearly 80 micrograms per cubic meter, well over the federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

The California National Primate Research Center houses about 5,000 animals, mostly rhesus macaques. Many of the animals are born and live outdoors in large family groups of 100 or more. Infants are born in late spring and early summer.

With funding from the California Air Resources Board, Miller, a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, tested lung function and took blood samples from monkeys that were born during the 10 days of peak air pollution.

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Treating the inner animal in all of us


New veterinary, comparative medicine center advances health care, human and otherwise.

Peter Ernst, UC San Diego

Peter Ernst, UC San Diego

Discoveries about how diseases arise or are transmitted in animals can be useful in understanding the same sorts of afflictions in humans. Similarly, new therapies or techniques used in people may be effective in caring for animals as well.

The newly established Center for Veterinary Sciences and Comparative Medicine (CVSCM) at the UC San Diego School of Medicine embodies this ideal – a highly integrated and innovative consortium of universities, institutions, scientists, physicians and veterinarians seeking to improve the condition of all animals, human and otherwise.

“By understanding the biology of disease, either in people or in animals, all benefit,” said Peter Ernst, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor of pathology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and founding CVSCM director. “We want to use the lessons learned and advances made in human healthcare to improve the lives of animals and vice versa.”

The CVSCM features a faculty of 25 academic veterinarians from UC San Diego School of Medicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The Scripps Research Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.

It builds upon UC San Diego’s long-standing post-doctoral training program in laboratory animal and comparative medicine and has close links to the UC Veterinary Medical Center-San Diego, a collaboration between UC San Diego Health Sciences and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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Help send holiday wishes, coats to pets of homeless


UC Davis Mercer Clinic seeks donations for holiday pet basket drive.

Sweaters and coats are a main stay of the gifts given through the clinic. The pets also receive toys, treats, leashes, food and pet-care products.

Sweaters and coats are a main stay of the gifts given through the clinic. The pets also receive toys, treats, leashes, food and pet-care products.

If pets of the needy and homeless in our region could write to Santa, their wish list might include a new sweater or coat to ward off winter’s chill.

Community members now have the opportunity to help Santa deliver on those wishes through the Mercer Clinic holiday pet basket drive, annually coordinated by a team of staff volunteers at UC Davis’ William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Monetary donations are needed to help the volunteers fill 130 holiday-wrapped boxes with toys, treats, leashes, food and pet care products, as well as sweaters and coats. The boxes will be distributed on Saturday, Dec. 14, to pet owners attending the monthly Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the Homeless in Sacramento.

“Our Holiday Pet Basket program is celebrating its 18th year, and we are grateful to members of the public for the generous monetary donations that have allowed us to continue,” said Eileen Samitz, who coordinates the holiday basket program.

“We are reaching out again for help to continue providing pet coats and sweaters, which are a more recent addition to our program and are so needed to help these beloved pets of the homeless get through the cold winter months.”

While pet supply companies provide the food and some of the other items for the holiday pet baskets, monetary donations for the coats, sweaters, toys, treats, clinic supplies and operational costs are still needed.

Checks, made payable to the UC Regents – Mercer Holiday Pet Baskets, can be mailed to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Office of the Dean, P.O. Box 1167, Davis, CA 95617-1167, Attn: Mercer Holiday Pet Baskets.

Donations also can be made online by choosing the “Mercer Clinic Holiday Pet Baskets” option.

For more information about how you can help the Mercer Holiday Pet Basket program, please contact coordinator Eileen Samitz, (530) 756-5165 (evenings), emsamitz@ucdavis.edu, or visit the program’s website.

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New SARS-like virus discovered in Chinese horseshoe bats


Research is first time scientists have isolated a live SARS-like virus from bats.

Horseshoe bat (Wikimedia Commons/Lylambda)

Horseshoe bat (Wikimedia Commons/Lylambda)

Scientists have discovered a new SARS-like coronavirus in Chinese horseshoe bats, according to a new study published today (Oct. 30) in the journal Nature by a team of international researchers, including a wildlife epidemiologist from the University of California, Davis.

The research team isolated and cultured the live virus that binds to the human SARS ACE2 receptor, proving that it can be transmitted directly from bats to people.

The study describes how the team uncovered genome sequences of a new virus closely related to the SARS coronavirus, which erupted in Asia in 2002 and 2003 and caused a global pandemic crisis.

The research is the first time that scientists have been able to isolate a live SARS-like virus from bats. It will allow them to conduct detailed studies to create control measures to thwart outbreaks and provide opportunities for vaccine development.

“This work shows that these viruses can directly infect humans and validates our assumption that we should be searching for viruses of pandemic potential before they spill over to people,” said co-author and UC Davis professor Jonna Mazet, co-director of PREDICT, a project of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats program. PREDICT, which partially supported the study, is designed to target surveillance of wildlife populations and identify potential pandemic viruses before they emerge. Mazet is also director of the One Health Institute and Wildlife Health Center at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

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Parrot-on-a-treadmill study gives valuable research experience


UC Davis summer research program supports veterinary students.

Amy Lin adjusts the treadmill speed for a parrot in her study. Lin was one of 13 participants from this year’s STAR program to attend the 2013 Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars Symposium at Michigan State University, which will be hosted at UC Davis in 2015.

Amy Lin adjusts the treadmill speed for a parrot in her study. Lin was one of 13 participants from this year’s STAR program to attend the 2013 Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars Symposium at Michigan State University, which will be hosted at UC Davis in 2015.

Summer may signal a break from classes, but for second-year veterinary student Amy Lin, it was also an opportunity to conduct research that may guide her future career choice. As one of 33 participants in the Students Training in Advanced Research (STAR) program, Lin designed and conducted a study to determine the effects of exercise on Hispaniolan Amazon parrots with high cholesterol levels.

“The program has allowed me to not only conduct research, but gain clinical skills in bird handling, which gives me additional confidence if I choose to pursue avian medicine,” Lin said.

Between 30 and 35 veterinary students are accepted annually to participate in the highly competitive STAR program through the school’s Office of Research and Graduate Education, which provides coordination and funding. Over the course of 10 weeks, students practice oral and PowerPoint presentations on their findings. Their experience culminates in a poster session for the school.

Some go on to present at scientific meetings while others pursue publication. Fourth-year student Jenna Winer’s 2012 STAR project (in collaboration with UC Davis senior Shannon Liong and veterinary school Professor Frank Verstraete), “The dental pathology of the southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis),” made the cover of the August-October 2013 issue of the Journal of Comparative Pathology. A second paper forthcoming from this project can be found here.

“Our goal is to identify, nurture and support veterinary students who may want to pursue academic research careers,” said Isaac Pessah, associate dean of research and graduate education. “Those who plan a traditional practice also benefit by learning to evaluate new knowledge and how it may apply to future patients.”

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Identification of new cattle virus will help rule out mad cow disease


Findings give researchers a diagnostic tool for ruling out mad cow disease.

SteerA new cow virus that causes neurologic symptoms reminiscent of mad cow disease has been identified and its genome sequenced by a team of researchers including scientists at the University of California, Davis.

While this particular new virus is unlikely to pose a threat to human health or the food supply, the new findings are critically important because they provide researchers with a relatively simple diagnostic tool that can reassure both ranchers and consumers by ruling out bovine spongiform encephalopathy — mad cow disease — as the cause of neurologic symptoms when they appear in cattle.

Results of the study appear online in the September issue of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Neurologic disease in cattle can be difficult to diagnose because there are a number of different causes, and pre-mortem sampling and analyses can be cumbersome and/or expensive,” said Patricia Pesavento, a veterinary pathologist in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and corresponding author on the paper.

“Understanding the role of this virus is crucial for veterinarians as well as for the dairy and beef cattle industries,” she said. “Additionally, finding new viruses helps us identify other, more remote viruses because it builds our knowledge of both the depth and breadth of viral family trees.”

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Gene mutation in dogs offers clues for neural tube defects in humans


Conditions associated with human neural-tube defects are known to occur naturally in dogs.

Several conditions associated with human neural-tube defects are known to occur naturally in dogs.A gene related to neural tube defects in dogs has for the first time been identified by researchers at UC Davis and University of Iowa.

The researchers also found evidence that the gene may be an important risk factor for human neural tube defects, which affect more than 300,000 babies born each year around the world, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Neural tube defects, including anencephaly and spina bifida, are caused by the incomplete closure or development of the spine and skull.

The new findings appear this week in the journal PLOS Genetics.

“The cause of neural tube defects is poorly understood but has long been thought to be associated with genetic, nutritional and environmental factors,” said Noa Safra, lead author on the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of professor Danika Bannasch in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

She noted that dogs provide an excellent biomedical model because they receive medical care comparable to what humans receive, share in a home environment and develop naturally occurring diseases that are similar to those found in humans. More specifically, several conditions associated with neural-tube defects are known to occur naturally in dogs. All DNA samples used in the study were taken from household pets, rather than laboratory animals, Safra said.

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