Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dr. Nicola Mason Bone Cancer Vaccine update

It is now over 16 months since the first dog diagnosed with spontaneous osteosarcoma received an experimental bone cancer vaccine at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. The vaccine is being administered to pet dogs that have been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive tumor that affects the long bones of large and giant breed dogs. With current standard of care, that consists of amputation and follow up chemotherapy, median survival times are between 200 and 300 days. The aim of the vaccine, given to dogs after amputation and chemotherapy, is to prevent metastatic disease and prolong overall survival. Of the first 5 dogs vaccinated in this clinical trial, 4 of the dogs are still alive and have survived between 500 and 590 days; three of these dogs are tumor free. Other dogs have been vaccinated more recently so long term survival data for these dogs is not yet available. “These results are really very exciting” Dr. Nicola Mason, the lead investigator on the trial explains. “They suggest that the vaccine is able to stimulate an effective anti-tumor immune response that is able to kill microscopic metastatic cells and prevent tumor recurrence in these dogs.” Importantly, the vaccine appears to be safe. Only low-grade toxicities consisting of a mild fever and occasionally one episode of vomiting the same day as vaccination have been reported. There have been no long or short-term complications observed with the vaccine. The results are highly promising and a larger phase II clinical trial is now being planned at Penn and at collaborating sites including Colorado State University and the University of Florida.

If you would like to learn more about the clinical trial, are interested in enrolling your dog, or wish to support Dr. Mason's research, visit http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-initiatives/canine-cancer-studies.

Any dog owner who has ever lost a beloved pet to cancer knows the heartbreak of this disease.  Mastiffs as other giant breeds are prone to the development of osteosarcoma.  If your dog qualifies for one of the ongoing studies, please consider having your vet contact PennVet and Dr. Nicola Mason and enrolling your dog in these clinical trial studies. These studies show great promise for advances in the treatment of this disabling disease. 

Catie C. Arney
KioKee Mastiffs

3 Ways to Help Save Your Dog From Painful Hip Problems

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia means ‘badly grown hip.’ Dysplasia comes from the Greek words ‘dys’ meaning bad or abnormal, and ‘plasia’ meaning growth.  Canine hip dysplasia (CHD, or simply HD) is a polygenetic multi-factorial disease, which means there is a genetic component, more than one gene is involved, and it is caused by a number of factors, some of which have yet to be identified.  Dogs without the genes for the condition will not acquire the disease. 

Dogs with the genes may or may not develop the disease. A dog can have great OFA and PennHIP scores and still carry the genes for the disease, meaning future generations of puppies can develop CHD even if prior generations show no signs of it. There is no test to identify whether a dog is a gene carrier. CHD is said to be present when the ball and socket (acetabulum) hip joint is malformed, causing a ‘subluxation’ or separation of the two bones of the joint. In most cases, the socket is not deep enough for the ball to fit completely into place. 

In a dog with healthy hips, the ball (the head of the femur) at the top of the leg bone fits perfectly into the socket. In animals with CHD, the less-than-perfect fit causes the bones to separate. This separation is the result of abnormal joint structure coupled with weak muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that support the joints.The result is a joint that chafes and grinds rather than slides smoothly during movement. Often the body tries to compensate for the poorly fitting joint by producing hard, bony material in and around it in an attempt to stabilize it. This alteration can have the opposite effect, creating an even more unnatural fit. Eventually the wear on the joint from the chafing and grinding results in degenerative joint disease (DJD), which causes the dog pain and limits his mobility.

The hip is the biggest joint in your dog’s body and bears the majority of his weight during any kind of movement. That’s why hip dysplasia can be such a painful, debilitating disease, especially as it is predominantly seen in large breed dogs with heavy body mass. Hip dysplasia also occurs less commonly in smaller breed dogs and in cats.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Canine Hip Dysplasia

According to PennHIP.org, a dog with CHD may have one or a combination of the following symptoms:
  • The disorder develops at 5 months to 12 months for the severe form of the disease; later for the chronic form
  • Abnormal gait
  • Bunny-hopping when running
  • Thigh muscle atrophy (loss of muscle mass)
  • Pain
  • Low exercise tolerance
  • Reluctance to climb stairs
  • Audible "click" when walking
  • Increased width between points of the hip 

 Diagnosis is typically made either because a dog is showing symptoms, or as the result of a standard hip exam prior to breeding a purebred dog. If your pet is symptomatic, there will be clinical signs of mobility problems and pain. The vet will perform a complete physical exam and take x-rays. Problems with a joint are often easily seen on x-rays of dogs exhibiting symptoms. Your vet may also be able to feel looseness in your dog’s hip joint, and note pain when a rear leg is extended or flexed. In non-symptomatic dogs, CHD is often diagnosed during the OFA and/or PennHIP certification process intended to establish the health of an animal’s hips.

Traditional Treatment of Hip Dysplasia

Surgery. If hip laxity (looseness) is caught very early prior to any joint damage occurring, there are surgical procedures that can correct the joint malformation.
If your dog has already suffered degenerative joint disease from chronic hip dysplasia, surgical options are either a total hip replacement or a procedure in which the head of the femur is removed and a ‘fake’ hip joint replaces it. This option is less costly than a full hip replacement, but is most successful in dogs weighing less than 40 pounds.
Unfortunately, the cost of surgery for CHD is beyond the budget of many pet owners.
Medical management. Conventional medical management of the condition involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), buffered aspirin and corticosteroids to alleviate inflammation and pain. The side effects of these drugs can include organ problems and gastric ulcers.

Complementary Therapies

If your pet is on medication for the pain and inflammation of CHD, I recommend you work with a holistic vet to determine what alternative treatments might also be of benefit. Often when an integrative approach is taken to managing the condition, safe supplements and therapies can reduce or replace the need for potentially toxic drugs.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of managing this debilitating disease is building and maintaining excellent muscle, tendon and ligament health through physical therapy, an anti-inflammatory diet and oral chondroprotective/supportive supplements.
Complementary therapies include:
  • Chiropractic treatments. Chiropractic therapy can help your pet avoid the compensating injuries that often result from CHD.
  • Massage. Regular massages can alleviate inflammation and prevent further damage through compensation.
  • Stretching and other forms of physical therapy will increase the condition and mobility of her joints, tendons and ligaments, helping to preserve her range of motion.
  • Low-level laser therapy can facilitate long lasting pain relief by stimulating the release of your dog’s own pain killing endorphins.
  • Acupuncture can be tremendously beneficial in relieving the pain and inflammation of degenerative joint disease.
  • Aquatic therapy, also known as hydrotherapy, uses an underwater treadmill or heated pool to take pressure off your dog’s injured or painful joints. Water therapy can also improve your dog’s cardiovascular health, muscle strength and range of motion critical for supporting dysplastic dogs.
  • Adding certain supplements to your pet’s naturally anti-inflammatory diet can provide the raw materials for cartilage repair and maintenance, among them:
    • Glucosamine sulfate with MSM, Eggshell Membrane, Perna Mussel
    • Homeopathic remedies, including Rhus Tox
    • Ubiquinol and other antioxidants
    • Super green foods (Spirulina and Asthaxanin)
    • Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs, proteolytic enzymes and nutraceuticals)
    • Adequan injections, which can stimulate joint fluid very rapidly in pets with arthritis

Prevention of Canine Hip Dysplasia

  • Selective breeding. More hip testing and more careful breeding can go a long way toward limiting the inheritance of this terrible disease that destroys the lives of millions of wonderful dogs.
  • If you’re planning to get a purebred large-breed puppy, find breeders who  certify their dogs. OFA certification is still the established standard, but  many also PennHIP, and some feel PennHip is a much better indication of hip health. 
    Unfortunately, PennHIP testing is more expensive and not as widely done as OFA. The procedure can be done on dogs as young as 16 weeks.  PennHIP uses a network of trained veterinarians and anesthesia is required rather than an option. All tests must be submitted to PennHIP for evaluation, and their database contains every study of both tight and lax hips, giving a more realistic picture of the hip status of each breed.
    For maximum impact on limiting the disease, only dogs with a very low PennHIP ‘distortion index’ should be bred, as these dogs have almost no chance of developing the disorder.
    Since this option severely limits both breeder choices and genetic diversity, a more realistic approach is to breed only those dogs with hips tighter than the average tightness for the breed. This will move the breed in the direction of tighter hips and less chance of developing CHD, while maintaining other desired traits.
    However, it’s important to note no matter how many lines in a dog’s ancestry have good hips, at the present time all we can do is minimize risk of the disease, not extinguish it altogether.
  • Slow weight gain in large-breed puppies. When a puppy gains size and weight too quickly, the cartilage in his body often can’t keep up with the growth of his frame, and cartilage deficits result. When imbalances of this type develop in a growing dog, they can contribute to hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis.
  • High calorie diets, which are typically also high in carbohydrates, can cause too-rapid growth, especially in larger breed dogs.
    In fact, research indicates the amount of calories a dog consumes, especially from the age of three to ten months, can have a significant impact on whether a pup genetically prone to hip dysplasia will develop the condition.
    Despite what you might hear from other owners of large breed dogs or even from your vet, it is not protein in the diet that is linked to hip dysplasia, but calcium-phosphorus ratios and high caloric content.
    portion-controlled, balanced, species-appropriate diet will provide your canine buddy, no matter his age, with the right nutrition in the right amounts.
    Obesity can increase the severity of dysplasia. Extra weight can accelerate the degeneration of joints. Dogs born with genes that make them prone to hip dysplasia, if allowed to grow overweight, will be at much higher risk of developing the disease, and subsequently, arthritis as well.
  • Appropriate exercise. There is evidence over-exercising large breed dogs at a young age may be a risk factor for dysplasia. Activities that require your dog to jump and land can apply a great deal of force to his joints.
  • However, moderate exercise such as running and especially swimming, will help your pup maintain good muscle mass, which has been shown to decrease the incidence and severity of the disease.
    Your pet should get at least 20 minutes of sustained, heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes is better than 20 -- six or seven days a week is better than three.

  Taken from an online article written by Dr. Karen Beckett, December 9th, 2010 -

 I also advocate the addition of Vitamin C to growing puppy's diet.  Vitamin C has also been shown  in past research studies to help decrease the incidence and severity of hip dysplasia.

Catie Arney
KioKee Mastiffs

Why "Overgrowing" your Large breed Puppy is Dangerous

by Dr. Karen Becker

 Many pet owners still believe a roly poly puppy is a healthy puppy. We need to set that old thinking aside if we’re going to help large and giant breed dogs live longer, healthier lives. Optimal growth for a large or giant breed puppy is very different from maximum growth. Optimal (the best kind of) growth for these pups means controlled growth – it does not mean growing very big, very fast.

Serious, debilitating, sometimes crippling health problems develop in large puppies whose bodies grow too fast – problems of the bones, joints, tendons, muscles and nerves. Diets for large and giant breed pups should not encourage rapid growth. Excess mineral content and excess calories, not protein, are the culprits in rapid growth puppy foods. Feed your large or giant breed puppy a portion controlled, balanced, species­ appropriate diet – either homemade or an excellent commercially available formula. If you feed kibble, feed either a food specifically for large­ breed puppies, or one that is “Approved for all life stages.”

Do You Know What to Feed Your Large or Giant Breed Puppy?
  Today I want to discuss slow growth diets for growing puppies – especially large and giant breed pups. Contrary to what many people continue to believe, a roly poly puppy is not a healthy puppy. Optimal growth in a large or giant breed puppy is very different from maximum growth. The goal of breeders and owners of big dogs should not be to help their puppies grow as big as possible, as fast as possible. Somehow, we've gotten the idea a large, fast growing puppy is a positive thing for the health of the dog.

Actually, the opposite is true. And until everyone understands that, sadly, we as dog owners will continue to contribute to the development of orthopedic diseases in large and giant breed dogs. The definition of a large breed dog, by the way, is a dog that will be over 55 pounds when he's full grown, which usually occurs between 10 and 24 months of age, depending on the breed.

Serious Health Problems Often Develop in Puppies Who Grow Too Fast
There are several factors that contribute to the skeletal development of puppies, including genetics, exercise, trauma and nutrition. One of the most important factors is nutrition. The good news is that nutrition is something you, as a pet owner, have complete control over.

A number of orthopedic diseases, which are problems with a dog's bones, joints, tendons, muscles and nerves, take root in poor feeding practices during the puppy's growth period. These diseases include osteochondrosis, some forms of hip dysplasia, hypertrophic osteodystrophy and Wobbler's syndrome. Many large and giant breed dogs are genetically predisposed to grow too fast. Unfortunately, humans continue to help the process along by feeding inappropriate, high­growth pet food formulas to these puppies. When a puppy's body gets too big, too fast and gains a lot of weight, it puts stress on the developing skeleton. Rapid bone growth can result in structural defects of the bones, which makes the skeleton even less able to bear the increasing body weight. Sometimes developing cartilage can't keep up with rapid bone growth, and cartilage defects can occur. Also, big dogs have less bone density than smaller breeds, meaning their bones are more fragile and prone to injury.

Diet Influences How Fast a Puppy Grows – It Does Not Influence His Adult Size
Overfeeding an adult dog leads to obesity and serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Overfeeding a puppy during the active, rapid growth period right after weaning leads to skeletal problems. The goal for large and giant breed puppies should be controlled growth – not overgrowth. The size a dog ultimately becomes is primarily dictated by genetics. But the time it takes a dog to reach full adult size can be controlled to a large degree by nutrition.

Protein is Not the Culprit ­­ Excess Calories and Minerals Are
In the past Protein  was blamed for growth issues in large breed puppies; it is Not the culprit,­­ excess calories and minerals are.   Researchers have studied the diets of large breed dogs for over 30 years to understand the link between improper nutrition and skeletal problems. Studies have repeatedly concluded dietary protein levels have no effect on the development of skeletal problems in large and giant breed dogs. But still today, many breeders of large dogs, owners and even some veterinarians will tell you protein is the problem, even though there is no evidence to prove it. Protein excess is not the problem. In fact, it's often a dietary protein deficiency that contributes to skeletal problems.

The elements of nutrition that have been scientifically proven to negatively impact skeletal development in puppies are excessive calories and high or unbalanced mineral content, specifically calcium and phosphorus .

Why is Excess Mineral Content  a Problem?
The bodies of puppies aren't able to control or limit absorption of dietary calcium and certain other minerals. Absorption, of course, occurs through the intestines. The higher the calcium and mineral content of the diet, the greater the level of absorption and assimilation into the developing bone structure of the puppy. This can disturb the natural process of bone growth and result in lesions in the skeleton and joints. High mineral concentrations in the diet can quickly cause bone mineral changes that play into skeletal abnormalities in a growing puppy.

These include hypertrophic osteodystrophy, also called HOD. This is a severely painful bone disease that affects multiple limbs and causes lameness. Also craniomandibular osteopathy, a disease that affects the bones of the skull, including the lower jaw. A high mineral content diet has also been shown to cause conformation problems and abnormalities in both stature and weight gain. Puppies who get too big, too fast and go on to develop orthopedic issues are typically fed a very tasty, high energy, high mineral content diet. Many of these puppies are free­fed. Others are simply fed too much at each meal. The problematic high energy nutrient in all these diets tends to be too many carbohydrates.

The Right Type of Food for Your Large or Giant Breed Pup
The goal in feeding a large or giant breed puppy is to keep him lean, with controlled growth. A healthy, large or giant breed puppy will thrive on a portion­controlled, balanced, species­appropriate diet. You can feed a spoton balanced homemade diet or an excellent quality commercially available food. What about those large breed puppy foods? Traditional puppy foods often provide much higher calorie content than large breed puppies require, causing them to gain too much weight too quickly. This is why pet food manufacturers began producing formulas specifically for large breed puppies. These are typically diets lower in calorie density (the number of calories per cup or gram of food) than a regular puppy diet. They're also usually lower in calcium on an energy basis. These are two very important factors for reducing too­rapid growth in big puppies. Some adult foods may also be low calorically, but often they have high calcium content on an energy basis, which is not what you want for a growing large or giant breed pup. If you're going to feed kibble to a large breed puppy, I recommend you look for special large breed puppy formulas or a formula that is "Approved for all life stages." This means the food is appropriate for growing puppies or adult dogs. I do not recommend feeding a traditional (high growth) puppy food to large breed puppies. .

 How Much to Feed
Most vets and breeders agree puppies can be moved to adult foods between six and 10 months of age, depending on the breed, size, and current physical development. Several factors will play into the amount of food you feed your puppy. They include the dog's age, current weight, anticipated adult weight, her breed, the environment she's in (including the climate), and her activity level. Puppies eat much more for their weight than adult dogs, and young puppies actually eat quite a bit more than older puppies. Very young puppies should be fed three to four times a day, in fact, whereas older puppies often do well with twice­ daily feedings. Following feeding guidelines on the back of a dog food bag can give you some guidelines on portions to feed, but remember those are only general guidelines.

There's no one­-size­-fits­-all amount that every puppy should be fed, and it certainly depends on what type of food you choose. Raw­ fed puppies need a larger volume of food than kibble­ fed puppies, because raw food contains less fat and calories per ounce. Another common feeding guideline is to allow your pup to eat at her own pace for about 10 minutes three times a day.

However, again, there's no one­-size-­fits­-all plan for every puppy, so you need to discuss your own puppy's caloric needs with your vet. Most importantly, I recommend you feed your puppy the amount of food required to keep him lean, which is about a 2 out of 5 or a 4 out of 9 body condition score.

Remember, you'll need to continually monitor your puppy's condition and activity level. Since puppy appetites go up and down depending on what growth phase they're in, you'll need to adjust the volume of food you feed your puppy and keep him at the appropriate weight throughout his growth period.

References: The Merck Veterinary Manual

Dr. Karen Becker article covers this subject in a very easy to follow format--informative and non-biased.  The original article can be found at  http://healthypets.mercola.com.

Catie Arney
KioKee Mastiffs