Updated Veterinary Guidelines for Cat Health: FIV and FeLV

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has updated their testing and management guidelines for the feline retroviruses FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and FeLV (feline leukemia virus).

These two potentially life-threatening illnesses can be managed with proper owner education, testing, and vaccinations.  As the AAFP notes in an article on phys.org:

“Education and early testing can greatly assist in the treatment and management of feline retrovirus infections. Routine veterinary care, when cats are well and when they are sick, can lead to better care and decrease the spread of infection…with regular healthcare and reduced stress, cats infected with retroviruses, especially FIV, may live many healthy years.”

The new guidelines are designed for veterinarians in private practice, as well as those in shelter medicine, because these diseases can spread in multi-cat environments.

Testing is key to identifying infected cats, especially when they are in contact with other cats.  FIV is often spread via saliva in bite wounds, especially in adult males.  About 3-5% of cats in North America have FIV.  FeLV is commonly passed from the mother to her kittens, often through grooming and feeding.  4% of cats in North America are thought to have FeLV.

Vets can download the 2020 guidelines via the AAFP website HERE.  Cat owners interested in learning more about FIV and FeLV can download an electronic owner education brochure HERE.  You can learn more about how to spot an infected cat, testing and vaccinations, and how to care for a cat living with FIV or FeLV.

 

 

Allergic to Dogs? Neutering May Be the Solution

There are many reasons to spay and neuter your pets.  Spay/neuter is the best way to reduce homeless pet overpopulation and to prevent certain kinds of diseases—including cancer—of the reproductive system in both males and females.

New research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that another benefit of neutering is to reduce human allergic reactions to a specific protein found in intact male dogs.

Dog and cat allergies are common, and can be caused by allergens in your pet’s urine, saliva, and dander.  But this new research shows that as many as 30% of people with dog allergies may be affected by a single prostate protein called Can f 5, found only in male dogs.

People who are allergic to Can f 5 can live with female dogs in the house but have problems with male dogs.  Some people with this allergy can tolerate neutered male dogs, while others may be better off with female dogs only.

If you suffer from pet allergies, you can note if certain dogs are easier to be around than others.  You can also talk to your doctor about getting tested.  An article on the Can f 5 research on the Mother Nature Network website notes that there are currently 6 different dog protein tests available, so you can narrow down the exact cause of your pet allergy.

 

“Talking the Dog” – Why People Pretend to Talk Like their Pets

An interesting article in The Atlantic takes a lighthearted look at a common pet owner behavior—why we enjoy talking as our dogs, cats, and other pets!

Many people admit to talking as if they were their pets (we also give voices to human babies).  Why exactly do we do this?

Linguist Deborah Tannen wrote about this habit back in 2004 and called it “talking the dog.”  The official term for this is called ventriloquizing, and Tannen found several reasons that might explain why we do it:  “effecting a frame shift to a humorous key, buffering criticism, delivering praise, teaching values, resolving potential conflict, and creating a family identity that includes the dogs as family members.”

Tannen told the author of the article that sometimes people find it easier to communicate with each other–such as sharing a complaint or critique–by doing it indirectly, through the family pet.  It’s also a way for us to soften self-criticism and guilt (“Why are you going out? I’m going to miss you!”).

Tannen notes that talking like your pet is largely a positive behavior, giving your fur kid a voice and a more active role in the family.  Many people use specific voices for individual pets as a way of reaffirming each animal’s unique personality.

Experts on human-animal interaction say that talking the dog is such a common behavior that many of us do it without even thinking.  Sometimes talking to your pet morphs into talking as your pet before you know it!

Do you “talk the dog” with your pets?

 

Scientists Develop New Dog Aging Calculator

Does one dog year really equal seven human years?  This long-held belief is undergoing some high-tech revision.

Scientists say a more accurate way to measure an animal’s age is to use something called an epigenetic clock—the accumulation of chemical modifications in an animal’s DNA over its lifespan.

One particular modification known as methylation is especially useful in tracking biological age.  DNA methylation has been used on humans and other animals, including mice, chimpanzees, and dogs.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have specialized in DNA methylation in dogs.  The researchers at UC San Diego studied over 100 Labrador Retrievers and found that their DNA methylation is somewhat similar to humans.

They also came up with an updated dog aging calculator, which shows that a dog’s “human age” can be calculated with a logarithm that multiplies a dog’s real age by 16, and then adds 31 to the total.

You can try the calculator HERE.

What does this new analysis of dog age mean?  Most dogs reach puberty at 10 months and live up to but not beyond 20 years.

The researchers found that a 7 week old puppy is roughly equivalent to a 9 month old human baby.  A 12 year old dog is roughly the same as a 70 year old human.

The researchers found that the canine epigenetic clock runs at a fast rate when a dog is young, then slows down somewhat as the dog grows older.

Scientists are hoping to apply DNA methylation to the study of how different dog breeds age, and also how certain diseases impact the various breeds.

 

Small Pet Socialization Tips

There’s lots of information about how to socialize dogs and cats out there, but what about small and exotic pets?  They can learn polite behavior too!

The San Diego Humane Society’s San Diego Pets Magazine recently shared some tips on how to socialize your rabbits, rodents, birds, and reptiles.  Here are a few highlights:

Rabbits

  • Some bunnies can be shy so let them approach you first. If you do approach a rabbit, do so slowly, at their level, and from the side.
  • Offering treats like fresh vegetables is a good way for your rabbit to associate human interaction with a positive reward.

Hamsters, Gerbils and Other Rodents

  • Young children may be excited to interact with their new small pets, but give the animals some time to adjust to their new surroundings first. Then start with a few short sessions each day.
  • Approach rodents on their level, not from overhead.
  • Let them walk onto a neutral object and work their way to your hand gradually.

Birds

  • Bird are very social, so they appreciate lots of interaction and being included in your family’s daily activities.
  • Avoid sudden movements around birds. They appreciate pets on the back of the head and back, and slow blinks (like cats!).

Reptiles

  • Not all reptiles like to be cuddled or held, so check your expectations if you’re looking for a snuggle buddy.
  • Treats can help them associate handling with something positive. Certain reptiles like turtles and tortoises enjoy being hand fed.
  • Your lizard or other reptile may not like to be handled, but some might appreciate being near you for warmth.