Author archives: Casey Carl

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, or Test for Narcolepsy?

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, or Test for Narcolepsy?

If I could be a dog for a week, I think I would enjoy sleeping the most. I’ve occasionally found myself jealous of my little terrier mix, snoring away as I wipe the sleep from my eyes in an attempt to get my day started. On his back, with all four legs in the air and dreams of rawhides in his head, he frequently reminds me that life doesn’t always have to be such a rat race. While both dogs and humans tend to share their appreciation for a little “R and R”, there are many conditions where sleep is no longer just a common necessity, but a frustrating burden. Whether it’s an inability to sleep or an inability to stay awake, most people with sleep disorders will attest to the overall decrease in life quality due to their sleep disturbance. One such troubling disorder that we share in common with our dogs is narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is a rare condition marked by excessive daytime sleepiness frequently accompanied by a phenomenon known as cataplexy. Cataplexy is a non-painful recurring condition caused by acute episodes of decreased muscle function leading to a variable clinical presentation from mild muscle weakness to complete collapse ...

The Mystery of Canine Bloat

The Mystery of Canine Bloat

Seeing a dog with a distended stomach, unproductive attempts at vomiting, weakness, and rapid, strained breathing is sure to strike fear into the heart of any dog breeder or owner. These classic signs of gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) or “bloat” as it is colloquially known, are the worst enemy of anyone who has experienced this traumatic, life-threatening condition that often affects otherwise healthy dogs. The significance of the heartbreak caused by this disease has been made obvious to me by the numerous clients that have inquired about genetic testing for this condition at Paw Print Genetics. Though many suspects have been implicated in the cause of GDV in our dogs, unfortunately no single risk factor, including a genetic mutation, can adequately explain the lion’s share of cases at this point. With an estimated 21-24% chance of large and giant breed dogs developing GDV within their lifetime (Broome and Walsh 2003), it is no surprise that people would love to find an easy, low-cost and predictable way to prevent this disease.

GDV is a condition marked by rotation of the stomach on the upper end near the esophagus. This rotation closes off the opening between the stomach and esophagus, thus ...

You offer 12 genetic tests for the Labrador retriever. Why does this breed have so many tests?

You offer 12 genetic tests for the Labrador retriever. Why does this breed have so many tests?

Interactions with our clients are valuable to Paw Print Genetics. It helps us understand their concerns when it comes to genetic testing. One question that we have been asked on occasion is about the number of genetic tests we have available for a particular breed as compared to a different breed and what that number means for the health of that breed as a whole. For example, Paw Print Genetics currently offers 12 genetic tests for the Labrador retriever, which is more than any other breed. For some of our clients, the natural follow-up question after this discovery has been, “Are Labradors more unhealthy than other breeds?” Though there are many diseases that have been identified in the Labrador retriever, we cannot make the assumption that they are more unhealthy or carry more genetic problems as a whole than other breeds without doing some statistical evaluation of the entire dog population. However, to my knowledge, this potentially expensive and time-intensive evaluation has not been performed. Despite the fact that veterinarians may sometimes get the impression that certain breeds are overrepresented in regards to disease, there are many factors that must be considered when objectively evaluating the number of genetic ...

The Spiteful Dog- A Separation Anxiety Myth

The Spiteful Dog- A Separation Anxiety Myth

Your dog is not spiteful. In fact, I would dare to say that NO dog is spiteful. But it’s hard not to feel like your dog is out to get you when you arrive home from a solo trip out of the house only to realize that your dog took his own one-way trip to Destruction Land in your absence. The poop and pee on the floor, the torn up furnishings and clothing, and your destroyed front door are all transmitting the “I showed them for leaving me home alone” vibe. However, A handout entitled, “Destructive Behavior in Dogs” written by Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Dr. Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D, for the Animal Humane Society, lists 12 reasons for destructive canine behavior and spite or revenge are not one of them.

In my experience, the reason most likely to give owners the impression that their dog is spiteful is a disorder called separation anxiety (SA). SA is a complex disorder often marked by a dog’s extreme social attachment to their owner. Though it is recognized as a common disorder in dogs, it is not always straight forward to diagnose. Interestingly, many of the dogs with the disorder are otherwise very ...

Are you helping your dog stay on Santa's good dog list?

Are you helping your dog stay on Santa's good dog list?

HO, HO, OH NO! If you’ve recently been to a local department store, you were likely made well aware that the holiday season is upon us. It may be that my recollections of youth have faded some over the years, but does anyone remember holiday decorations in stores before Halloween when they were kids? I sure don’t. Another thing I can’t remember from my youth is anyone warning us about potential dangers to our dogs during the holiday season. The canine exodus from the backyard to the bedroom over the past 30 or so years has been remarkable. Development of once-monthly parasite control and changing social, cultural and familial norms have been important contributing factors to the modern, intimate relationship with our former hairy lawn ornaments. With this change, comes a different set of responsibilities in keeping our dogs safe and healthy. Once threatened by wild animals, parasites and seasonal extremes, our dogs now face a multitude of new threats to their health associated with the modern American lifestyle.

Halloween to New Year’s Day is an interesting time to be an emergency veterinarian. Whether it is food, decorations, or other hazards, many dogs end up learning the hard way that ...

The Chronic Disease That is Killing Our Dogs

The Chronic Disease That is Killing Our Dogs

If your dog is an average American canine, there is approximately 50% likelihood that your dog has a chronic disease that increases chances of osteoarthritis, heart disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease, chronic pain, cancer, high blood pressure, and endocrine disease. In addition, this disease is also known to significantly decrease life expectancy. The most unfortunate aspect of this condition is that it is completely preventable, yet only a small fraction of dog owners take the necessary precautions to prevent this disease of malnutrition in their dogs. This disease is canine obesity.

Unless you avoid all news and cultural commentaries, you are likely aware of the human obesity epidemic in America and other countries around the world. According to the report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future”, a collaborative work by Trust for America’s Health (www.healthyamericans.org) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as of 2010, 68.7% of American adults over 19 years of age were overweight or obese (“Overweight” is defined as a body mass index, or BMI, over 25 and “Obese” is defined as a BMI over 30 - BMI Calculator). In addition, the rapidity at which the increase in human obesity has occurred is ...

Do English cocker spaniels share any diseases in common with people?

Do English cocker spaniels share any diseases in common with people?

               When you are a veterinarian living in a swirling haze of disease prevention and treatment, you often forget that most people don’t spend their spare time thinking about disease processes on a regular basis. They are even less likely to spend time comparing canine diseases to illness found in them or in people they know. Therefore, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when my friends, family and clients find it so fascinating and unbelievable when I tell them that dogs inherit and develop many of the same genetic diseases as people.  In fact, dogs are well recognized in the scientific community as terrific models for particular diseases in people and have been thoroughly studied to gain information on many conditions. According to the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA; http://omia.angis.org.au), as of this writing, there are 343 genetic mutations identified in dogs that are considered to be “potential models for human disease” and the list continues to grow rapidly since mapping of the full canine genome was completed in 2005.  The mapped genome of a boxer named Tasha provided a much needed framework for genetic comparison studies ...

My bird dog isn't hunting like he used to. What's wrong Doc?

My bird dog isn't hunting like he used to.  What's wrong Doc?

The season of the bird dog is upon us! Whether it's ducks, pheasants, geese or quail, your four-legged, bird-tracking machine needs to be well-trained and in optimal physical health if you want to improve your chances of collecting a limit. You handled the training through hours and hours of sacrifice, treats, frustration and love… and last year it showed. However, this year you are noticing that something is a little off with ol’ Chopper, and you can’t quite place what it is.

He seems unmotivated and won’t trail like he did last year. He acts like he’s excited for the hunt, but something is holding him back. Is it a health issue? Do you need to take him to the veterinarian? Given the immense financial, time and emotional commitments of purchasing and training a great hunting dog, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you’ve increased the chances of your hunting companion tracking birds with you late into their adult life? 

There are many different diseases or conditions that could take a bird dog off his game. Some of the most common ailments such as osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease, traumatic injuries and eye problems are called “acquired” diseases and ...

I perform genetic testing for CNM on my Labradors, but what is CNM?

I perform genetic testing for CNM on my Labradors, but what is CNM?

The popularity of the Labrador retriever doesn’t seem to wane.  It has been the number one dog breed registered by the American Kennel Club from 2002 to 2012 (the last time registration statistics were calculated) and is currently the most popular breed in the world.  Their cheerful dispositions, great prey drive, and high intelligence, has made them a common sight in American households.  Unfortunately, like many dog breeds, certain inherited diseases have become an issue as the popularity of the breed has increased.  One such disease, centronuclear myopathy (commonly referred to as “CNM” by Labrador breeders), has become a concern for the breed.  It is currently recommended (though considered optional) by the Labrador Retriever Club to perform genetic testing for CNM on all Labradors.  Despite that many Labrador breeders are currently testing for the disorder, from conversations, I have discovered that many breeders still have a significant number of questions in regards to what the disease actually is and what causes the symptoms seen in CNM.

CNM is a hereditary muscle disease of dogs caused by a genetic mutation in the PTPLA gene.  This disease was first described in dogs (Labrador retriever) in ...

How prevalent is Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis in the dog?

How prevalent is Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis in the dog?

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL) is a group of inherited mammalian diseases characterized by abnormal accumulations of a metabolic byproduct known as lipofuscin in nerve cells and various organs of the body.  The accumulation of lipofuscin eventually leads to progressive nerve cell dysfunction and severe neurological symptoms including behavioral changes, balance issues, muscle atrophy, uncoordinated movement, blindness, head tremors and seizures.  Other organ systems can also be affected to various degrees depending on the severity of lipofuscin build up.  Most dogs will die due the disease or are euthanized when neurologic problems progress to the point of preventing normal daily activities.  While most types of NCL begin to cause clinical signs around 1 to 2 years of age in dogs, the age of onset and speed of progression vary significantly upon the type of NCL.  Variable presentation and progression among NCL types is expected given that multiple genes can cause this clinical condition.

Unfortunately, details about disease incidence and prevalence within a breed are often difficult to obtain including NCL.  Without going into an in-depth discussion about statistics, among other conditions, in order to estimate incidence and prevalence of disease for an entire population, individuals ...