Science Post: Variety of Genetic Risk Behind Bone Cancer in Dogs

Dec. 12, 2013 — Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, is a rare but very aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects teenagers. Among some large-sized dog breeds the disease is much more common, but otherwise osteosarcoma in humans and dogs is very similar. In the current study, the researchers compared the genome of sick and healthy dogs from three different breeds to find inherited risk factors for the disease.

“The key is that we find many different risk factors within each breed. We already knew that greyhounds, Rottweilers and Irish wolfhounds are at increased risk of developing bone cancer and our results explain much of the increased risk,” said Emma Ivansson, scientist at SciLifeLab and Uppsala University.

The study demonstrated that each breed has its own risk genes, but these genes converge in common disease mechanisms. Some genes are known cancer genes in humans, while others are completely new discoveries. The researchers also studied one of the risk factors in more detail and found a new regulatory signal that leads to increased gene expression in bone cancer cells from humans.

“Our results show that the pathways involved in bone formation and growth are important for the disease. Because of the great similarities between bone cancer in dogs and humans, we believe that our findings may contribute to an increased understanding of how bone cancer develops in humans,” said Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, professor at Uppsala University and Co-Director of the SciLifeLab and Director of Vertebrate Genome Biology at the Broad Institute.

The researchers are continuing to study the identified risk factors to understand more about how they affect tumor development and to see whether different risk factors respond to different types of treatment.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Uppsala University. The original article was written by Anneli Waara.

The truth is, there is no evidence that supports the label “hypoallergenic” with respect to dogs

I hear this all the time, “Oh, I got this “….” (insert doodle, poodle, etc) because it’s hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed!
Well, They’re in for a shock. There’s actually no such thing as I hypoallergenic dog, and I would question the breeder who sold it to you, under the premise that it was.  This is one of those scenarios, I find myself struggling to smile and walk away, as I don’t want to be the one to burst this new puppy owners bubble!

A study from Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital has found that poodles, Portuguese waters dogs (like the Obama’s pet, Bo), and other supposedly hypoallergenic dogs produce no fewer allergens than their shedding counterparts.

Researchers focused on 173 homes, each with one dog and a newborn baby. Sixty different breeds were represented in the sample, including 11 supposedly hypoallergenic ones. When scientists analyzed dust samples from the floors of the homes’ nurseries, they did not find any significant difference in the allergen levels in the homes with hypoallergenic dogs versus those with standard, shedding pups. “The idea that you can buy a certain breed of dog and think it will cause less allergy problems for a person already dog-allergic is not borne out by our study,” says Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.

An adorable little Havanese, a breed that is often marketed as ‘hypo-allergenic’.

The allergenicity of “hypoallergenic” dogs

It’s a primitive social urge in humans to interact with dogs. So much so that many people found to be clinically sensitive to dogs will own them anyway. In this context, it is not surprising that the search for dogs that elicit a minimal allergic response would claim so much energy, but are there such things as “hypoallergenic” dogs? Vredegoor et al. look at that question in this month’s issue (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2012;130:904-909.e7).
The authors examine levels of the primary dog allergen, Can f 1, in samples from dog fur and skin, and settled and airborne dust from “hypoallergenic” dogs (Labradoodles, Poodles, Spanish water dogs, and Airedale terriers), normal allergenic dogs (Labrador retrievers), and a variety of breeds and mixed breeds that made up the control group. Their results are paradoxical and even ironic.
Poodles and Labradoodles had the highest levels of Can f 1 in their coat and skin; Labrador retrievers had the lowest. Hair and dander shedding was highest from Airedale terriers. Vredegoor et al. report that environmental levels of Can f 1 were not significantly different between “hypoallergenic” dogs and their allergenic counterparts, though homes with covered floors had overall lower environmental levels than homes with exposed floors. The authors note that other identified canine allergens, such as Can f 2 and 3, were not screened due to lack of available methods for analyzing large sample sizes.
The authors also collected information from owners by administering questionnaires. Dog-allergic owners reported much fewer symptoms with the breeds thought to be hypoallergenic and did not report having different house-cleaning practices than non-allergic owners. It was noted that recent swimming by the dogs had an overall effect of lowering allergen levels and Vredegoor et al. speculated that this could contribute to the lower levels found in Labrador retrievers, which are frequent swimmers.
Vredegoor et al. conclude that there is no evidence that supports the label “hypoallergenic” with respect to dogs, so we asked the authors to comment on a possible explanation for the number of dog-allergic owners who reported experiencing fewer symptoms with certain dogs: Senior author Esmeralda J.M. Seegers-Krop replies, “We believe the health effects can be a kind of placebo effect in these people. It has been seen in cat allergic people as well (they report not to be allergic to their own cat but only to other cats).”

More reading on the topic:

NYTimes – The Myth of the Allergy-Free Dog

Time Magazine – Poodles, Labradoodles and Portguese Water Dogs: Cute But Not as hypoallergenic as Advertised, Study Finds 

Dr. Karen Becker: The Allergy-Free Dog: Real or a Myth

Portuguese Water Dogs may be considered a lower-dander dog, but they still produce no fewer allergens than their shedding counterparts.

Lame dogs brought to heal with stem cells

Up for a walk … Denise Stuckey, with her dog, Bella, who has had stem cell treatment from vet Joe Sulyok. Photo: Janie Barrett


Stem cell injections in dogs will become routine in the next two years and will probably cost less than $1000.

The first data, collated last week, into the use of the procedure where cultured cells are injected into the joints of dogs with hip dysplasia or canine osteoarthritis has shown a success rate of 96 per cent.

The procedure will be made available to veterinary clinics, promoted at dog shows and possibly in a television campaign.

It has been transformed in little more than a year with stem cells from one animal used to treat other dogs.


Previously, an invasive procedure was necessary, with incisions to remove subcutaneous or fatty tissue from the affected dog and stem cells isolated in a laboratory before being injected back into the dog.

The procedure resulted in a culture containing only about 10 per cent to 15 per cent stem cells, while the culture from a donor in a breed with a genetic line clear of arthritis can been screened to provide a culture containing 100 per cent stem cells.

The figures were collected from vets by Australian Veterinary Stem Cells, which supplies stem cell treatments and has a partnership with the immunology and stem cell research department at Monash University in Melbourne.

The sample size for the study was small at 150 but only about 1000 animals have had the treatment.

The results found that with an injection into the affected joint, 60 per cent of dogs had a ”significant improvement” while 96 per cent of dogs showed ”improvement”.

For dogs given an intravenous injection – usually older animals not suitable for a general anaesthetic – vets reported 79 per cent improved.

The executive chairman of the company, Peter Hansen, said: ”We have been treating dogs commercially since late 2010 but doing it specifically with a small number of vets to accumulate data. We have not marketed to the veterinary community – that is about to start.

”When you go into the joint, you need fewer cells so it is cheaper – going into one joint for a small dog we would have thought with off-the-shelf stem cells that vets should not be charging a four-figure amount.” The treatment of tendon and ligament damage in horses was also showing encouraging results, Mr Hansen said.

Other areas of veterinary research include treatment of diabetes in cats and dogs, renal problems in cats and dermatitis in dogs.

Peter Britton of the St George Animal Hospital in Carlton gave Australia’s first canine stem cell injection seven years ago – to an Airedale called Wooster. He said: ”In the next couple of years, things will become treatable that we cannot treat now … for some diseases, it will probably become routine.”

Wooster’s owner, Colleen Nacson, said: ”She was about six when she had it and it seemed like she was a 10 or 11-year-old. The result was fantastic, I could see a change within 48 hours.”