Science and Pets: What will they think of next?
From hypoallergenic cats to doggie diet pills, science has come a long way. DNA testing kits can now be bought on the internet very easily and can be used at home. Some of these advances are controversial while others can be helpful to vets, such as screening a pet for a genetic disease.
What Breed is that Dog? -- At-Home Genetic Testing
Ever wondered what your dog is made of? Now you can buy a DNA home testing kit (£36) from the Animal Health Trust that will tell you the breed make-up of your rescue dog. The test just involves a simple mouth swab.
Many mixed-breed dog owners are curious about their dog's ancestry. Knowing your dog's breed mixture may assist the vet in creating a personalised care programme for your pet. This knowledge may also help you to better understand your dog's behaviour.
Heart Disease and Cats -- At-Home Genetic Testing
If you are the owner of a Maine Coon or Ragdoll cat you may be worried about the risk of heart disease, which can be hereditary in these breeds. The genetic mutation causes Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in these breeds of cat with approximately 30% of cats being texted as positive. Now you or your vet can test for the mutated gene by swabbing the inside of your cat's cheek and submitting the sample to a laboratory run by Langford Vets, part of the University of Bristol. If the mutation is present, the cat is more likely to develop the disease than other cats.
Hypoallergenic Cats? Would you buy a cat for $8,000? What if you were highly allergic, and this was your only chance to own a cat? Allerca Lifestyle Pets in the US claims to produce scientifically proven hypoallergenic kittens. These cats are not genetically modified, they have been selectively bred to alter the protein responsible for the allergic reaction in people. The niche market seems small, yet the waiting list for a kitten is nine to 18 months! Many people also believe that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat. However, It seems that dark coloured cats and male cats may produce more allergens than light coloured cats and female cats. In addition, Siberian cats and Rex cats are also thought to be low in the allergens that cause an allergic reaction.
Cloning, Gene Banking, and Glow-in-the-Dark Cats!
The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh is one of the UK's leading places for Animal bioscience. This is where Dolly the sheep was cloned, the first time this had been done.
Cloning has also led to the "glow-in-the-dark cats" from South Korean scientists last year. The genes of some Turkish Angoras were altered so that they produced a protein that glows red in ultraviolet light. Because a virus was used to insert the genetic information, there may be medical applications for this type of research, including gene therapy to treat human disease.
In addition, it is now possible in the US to have your pets DNA stored for the future.
Doggie Diet Pills
Obesity is a growing problem (no pun intended) in veterinary medicine. What about diet pills for your overweight dog? Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. has developed a pill for dogs called Slentrol, available from your vets, which suppresses appetite and traps some of the fat so it can't be absorbed. This may be a necessary option for some pets, but vets agree that the ideal scenario for most dogs and cats involves exercise and calorie restriction. Where have we heard that before?
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