Thursday, 10 September 2015

Boxer dog health: can you help with this research?

 Help improve the health of the Boxer breed.
I am writing to you on behalf of the staff at the Animal Health Trust (AHT). Their letter below informs Boxerowners of important research investigating cancer in the breed and how they can contribute.

The Kennel Club strongly encourages you to contribute to this project because the information that it generates will be of great value to the breed.

Kind regards,

Bonnie-Marie Abhayaratne
Health and Breeder Research Assistant
The Kennel Club

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) in Newmarket would like to invite you to take part in studies being carried out on 3 types of cancer that affect Boxers. You have been sent this letter by the Kennel Club, on behalf of the AHT, because you are the registered owner of a Boxer. However, please note that the fact that you have been sent this letter in no way implies that we believe your dog will become affected by any of the cancers that we are studying. We sincerely hope that you will be able to participate in these studies as they may help future generations of dogs. However, if you have already contributed to any of our studies thank you for your help.

At the AHT we are undertaking research that is seeking to address the issue that pedigree dogs develop cancer more frequently than people. We hope that this research will eventually lead to both a reduction i n the numbers of dogs affected by common cancers, and the development of new treatments for these cancers.

We would like your help with research studies that are attempting to identify inherited ‘genetic alterations’ that cause Boxers to have a higher risk (than most other pedigree dog breeds) of developing gliomas (brain tumours), lymphoma and mast cell tumours, respectively. In the long term, we hope that the research will lead to the development of ‘DNA tests’ to identify Boxers that carry the genetic alterations that cause the increased risk. Such tests will be invaluable for vets as they will identify dogs who may benefit from careful monitoring for early detection of cancer (enabling early treatment), and it will also help breeders to reduce the incidence of Boxers affected by these cancers. Significantly, the research will increase understanding of how the 3 cancers develop, promoting the development of new therapies.

Research progress to date
The study on mast cell tumours began in 2010. In the last 5 years we have analysed DNA samples from 139 Boxers with mast cell tumours and 117 Boxers (of middle-old age), searching for genetic markers (called ‘SNPs’) that are present much more frequently in the DNA of Boxers with mast cell tumours. Such SNPs would identify parts of the DNA that contain genetic alterations that cause an increased risk of developing mast cell tumours. Unfortunately, the results obtained so far are inconclusive, and so we need to analyse additional DNA samples from both Boxers with mast cell tumours and unaffected dogs, and continually re-analyse the data until we obtain definite results.
Please could you help us with our studies? 
Taking part is easy. 
If your dog has been diagnosed with either glioma, lymphoma, or a mast cell tumour, or is at least 10 years of age and has never been affected by any type of cancer, we would like to hear from you.
Simply E-mail, or telephone 01638 751000 Ext. 1214, to request a cheek swab kit. Each kit is supplied with x 3 swabs, full instructions, a sample submission form and a reply envelope. Unfortunately, as a charity we are unable to pay for the swabs to be returned to us, but a ‘large letter’ first class or second class stamp will cover the return postage. If your dog is currently affected by either glioma, lymphoma, or a mast cell tumour we will also ask you if it is possible for you to ask your vet to retain (in a special preservative that we will provide) for our research a small piece of any tumour biopsy that is surgically removed.

The more samples that we receive the more likely it is that we will be able to identify inherited genetic alterations that cause Boxers to have a higher risk of developing the 3 types of cancer. If you submit a sample, all informat ion relating to you and your dog will remain strictly confidential.

If you have any questions about taking part in the study, please contact Victoria Pilfold-Wilkie by E-mail or by telephoning 01638 751000 ext 1214. Further information about the work that we do at the Animal Health Trust can be found on our website here
Yours Faithfully
Dr Mike Starkey
Molecular Oncology Research Group Leader 
Victoria Pilfold-Wilkie
Sample and Data Curator

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

All kinds of life in the garden today

Araneus diadematus (garden spider) - with prey

Bluebelle - large hen, lays lots of eggs, always wants a treat

Lavatera (tree mallow) - flowers in late summer

Patty pan (summer squash) - last of the flowers, excellent crop

Thirsty bee - with reflection

Thirsty dog - shares the birdbath with the bees

Late summer crops - Golden Sunrise tomatoes are my favourite

Thursday, 13 August 2015

My dog has a fat ear!

He does. I felt it. I googled it. I panicked.

The vet says it isn't a blue light condition but maybe he does need surgery. Oh dear. This is Brin, who is very suspicious of most things, even buttered toast. How will he cope with a surgical collar, wound dressing and sutures. How on earth will I cope?

Brin, of course, is on best behaviour at the vet, which isn't always the case. He seems to have mellowed since his prostate problem (more on that in a future post). His ear is inspected. 

The vet is very solemn.

'I don't think we'll do anything. Let's just wait and see'. Chicken.

But, I'm pleased about that. It isn't bothering him, he isn't constantly scratching his ear. And he isn't holding his head to one side, so even though I know he has a fat ear*, he doesn't.

* For the veterinary record, the fat ear I refer to is actually aural haematoma. It occurs when the ear is damaged, usually by vigorous head shaking, but in this case most likely due to Zozi attack. The small blood vessels in the ear leak blood into the ear flap, making it swell. It can take just a few hours to swell, but in Brin's case, it was quite slow to develop. A quick relief is to lance it, but not recommended for house dogs who will most likely leak blood everywhere. The surgery is simple but does leave sutures or buttons in the ear for 2 weeks, necessitating the use of the collar. I don't think Brin would last 2 hours before the collar was destroyed. So, we have decided to let the haematoma resolve naturally over a few weeks. I've been warned that it will leave him with a crinkly ear, but that won't spoil his good looks.

If in doubt, please consult your vet.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The online private GP

I wasn't very well last week. This was really rather annoying as we were just back from a lovely holiday in Wales and I had plenty of work to catch up on. So when I woke up on Sunday morning to find I had cellulitis on my leg, I was not best pleased. (note: not cellulite, this is a bit more serious, a staph aureus skin infection requiring antibiotics). The small scratch from the dog two weeks previously had left me with a red, hot, painful, infected swelling. In situations like this, being married to a cardiologist is no help at all. I wailed in frustration. How would I get an appointment at the GP during the week? How long would I have to sit in the waiting room? Should I call 111, or go to the walk-in centre in Woking? Then I remembered seeing a advert on TV for - an online private GP.

Registration was easy and setting up the video contact was simple, almost 'hands-free'. I got an appointment for 10am last Sunday morning. The fee for 10 minutes is £25, then £15 for each 10 minutes thereafter. If a prescription is required, you pay £4.50.

Reminders are sent by text and email. At 10am, the doctor appeared by video call. She introduced herself and in a couple of minutes we had agreed my diagnosis was correct and I needed a course of antibiotics. She asked several questions regarding general health, medications and allergies before writing the prescription. This did take longer than I expected, I think some people don't talk and type very well, and my consultation ended at 10 minutes 13 seconds.

The prescription was emailed to me straight away and after a short delay for the security code to be sent by text, I was able to open the PDF document and print it out.

So far, so good. Except that when the statement arrived in my inbox, I had been charged £15 for another 10 minutes, for being 13 seconds over due to slow typing. There was no alert during the consultation to let me know that this would happen, although the small print does outline charges. Of course, I complained and the charge was reversed immediately, so my advice is to keep an eye on the time.

One other comment. I took a photo of my leg and wanted to upload this before the appointment. This isn't possible, so you are left trying to do it during the consultation, which didn't work for me. 

During the registration process I was asked if I wanted my records shared with my GP. I chose not to. Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps because my relationship with my GP is simply on an ad hoc basis, as *touch wood* I don't have a chronic illness to manage. Perhaps because it might offend my GP that I chose this option. Perhaps because it is simply nothing to do with him, and I can't see why all aspects of my life should be recorded. 

Anyway, the up-side of this process was that within a couple of hours of waking on a Sunday morning, I had a prescription and was on my way to the pharmacy. The pharmacist had never heard of (better marketing to health professionals would help). The private prescription cost £4.50 plus £6 for the actual tablets. A small price to pay for starting to feel better straight away.

And how does the GP/out-of-hours service/walk-in centre/111/A&E/999/NHS fit in with this? Rather well, I think. There is a lot of choice for treatment and advice. It may not always be free or immediate, but everyone should be able to access an appropriate level of healthcare at any time of day or night.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any inducement or incentive from to write this post. I am blogging about my experience because the face of healthcare provision is changing and the emphasis need not always be on GPs or the NHS. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

What the Boxers did on holiday

We climbed the dunes
We walked at Penrice woods (Millwood)

We made a Brin-cave for his cool, quiet time

Zozi slept with Mr B

Pawfect for everyone.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Rested, restored and ready

I think we all underestimated the toll the building work would take on our health and wellbeing. Whilst we had excellent builders, the project did have its ups and downs and the bathroom still isn't quite finished to our expectations. Nothing to do with our fabulous builders, but a totally avoidable cock-up between the plumber and his supplier. The less said about that, the better (for the time-being anyway). On top of which, our practice has been extremely busy (good), and Dad hasn't been well (bad).

When Dr B suggested we book our week away in Wales as usual I must admit, I wasn't sure. So soon after the builders? At the beginning of summer? With all that work to do in the garden? He was adamant, and so our wedding anniversary week was spent on the beach at Llangennith (possibly the best beach in the UK).

We booked our usual cottage. The Boxers felt right at home. The neighbours all came to say hello. But we were tired. It took 2 days to feel normal. We simply hadn't realised how tired we were. 

But a few hours in the sea washed the tiredness away. It restored us, we hardly even spoke to each other, just getting on with getting better. We knew it was all OK when we got in the car for the drive home on Saturday. We looked at each other and smiled.

When did life get so gritty? Why don't we take more time out?