Arrow and Henry Holsthyzen with the Guinness World Record
Arrow, a German Shepherd dog specially trained to combat Africa’s poaching crisis, has been recognized as the world’s first sky-diving anti-poaching dog by Guinness World Records.
Two-year-old Arrow made his maiden jump with handler Henry Holsthyzen of Paramount Group’s Anti-Poaching and K9 Academy based in Rustenburg, South Africa. The jump was executed at the Waterkloof Airforce Base on the outskirts of Pretoria. Arrow was specially selected as a puppy for his temperament and trained to descend from a helicopter by rope, strapped to Holsthyzen, and finally, to skydive.
Arrow is one of nearly 200 other specially bred and trained K9s at the Anti-Poaching and Canine Training Academy run by Paramount Group, the African-based defence and aerospace company that manufactures aircraft, armoured vehicles, naval vessels and UAVs for governments around the world.
Arrow’s entry to the Guinness World Records family comes after much preparation. His skydiving expertise hinges on his close relationship with his handler. Since Arrow was a puppy the two have eaten, slept, and worked together in order to develop the inseparable bond needed to carry out high-pressure anti-poaching tasks together.
Arrow and Henry Holsthyzen skydive
Holsthyzen said: “With my knowledge of Arrow – knowing him, and knowing his personality – it gave me a very good idea of what to expect and he acted accordingly. He’s a natural born skydiver and an adrenaline junkie – I was more scared than he was!
“I jumped out of the helicopter and it was just natural for him to follow me. I rely on him and in turn he relies on me. I’m willing to go into battle with him because I trust him. Trust forms the basis of our relationship and that enables the handler and the K9 relationship to excel”.
The Paramount Anti-Poaching and K9 Academy is the culmination of six years of active involvement by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation and Paramount Group in anti-poaching initiatives, and is one of the largest of its kind in Africa.
Eric Ichikowitz, Director of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation commented:“In some cases we have to insert the canine into a difficult situation with the poachers or a challenging environment, such as a forest or mountainous regions. The parachute helps engage them quietly.
“At any one stage we have a large number of K9’s at various stages of development enabling us to develop on each K9’s unique capabilities as identified and tracked from infancy through adolescence. The large pool enables us to select optimal pairings between handlers and dogs, and to experiment with combinations.
“The training protocols have been developed through experience gained in operational environments, working in close conjunction with a number of National Parks special operations units. The training school is a custom developed anti-poaching facility developed to train anti-poaching rangers into specialised K9 handlers and to engage the handlers in the protocols of working with dogs in a wildlife environment.”
Paramount Anti-Poaching and K9 Academy addresses the ever-increasing need for the training of Conservation Officers in anti-poaching activities, wildlife contraband detection, specialist K9 solutions and Ranger K9 handler training – all of which have proven success rates in combatting and apprehending poachers.
Its solutions include specialised anti-poaching reaction unit training, training of handlers and detection dogs at points of access to game reserves and borders, tracking dogs for field rangers, as well as training special operation dogs like Arrow for rapid deployment teams. Paramount Group’s initiative is a pioneering movement to deploy and react to poaching alerts within a moment’s notice.
The Canine Academy specialises in breeding working Belgian Shepherd Dogs (Malinois) and German Shepherd Dogs (GSD) for anti-poaching, military and police, as well as any other specialised K9 solutions. Their breeding stock is selected from pure working bloodlines. The school also has working Rottweiler and Bloodhounds.
As well as the K9 programme, Paramount Group’s other anti-poaching contributions include the donation of surveillance aircraft and other military equipment to national parks, and the provision of combat training programmes to strengthen the capabilities of counter-poaching units.
The last seven years have seen the elephant population fall by almost a third, and rhino poaching reach epidemic proportions, with around 1200 rhinos being killed in 2014 and 2015 in South Africa alone.
Watch this video of Arrow and Henry Holsthyzen in action:
New research released today reveals that almost half of all pet owners will be buying a present for their pet this Christmas, and surprisingly, men are more than twice as likely as women to buy a premium-end gift for their furry friends.
The poll of 3,000 people commissioned by 3D printing experts Arty Lobster, and carried out by Google Consumer Surveys, found that nearly half (48%) of pet owners will buy their pet a Christmas present costing more than £10, more than 25% will spend up to £50 and 11% of those surveyed love their pets so much they are willing to shell out more than £250. An intriguing 1.6% of men and 1.1% of women plan to spend this amount on their animals.
Young people aged 25-34 are most likely of all age groups to buy presents worth more than £250 for their pets with two in ten saying they intend to do so. Across the UK as a whole, the figures mean that almost half a million people (429,300) plan to buy a present worth between £250 and £500 for their pet while just under 350,000 of us will spend £500 or more on our furry best friends this Christmas.
The trend is part of the growing phenomenon of pet ‘humanisation’ where we are increasingly treating our pets like people. Two thirds of animal owners now see their pets as a beloved family member, according to a recent Euromonitor survey. In addition, there is a growing market in accessories for our companion animals, and the UK pet industry is reporting significant year on year growth*.
Each year, pet owners can buy more extravagant and unusual gifts for their pets ranging from pet Advent Calendars to reindeer jumpers. There’s even been a run on exercise equipment for dogs following the launch of this year’s eagerly anticipated Christmas John Lewis advert. The ad shows a Boxer dog enjoying jumping on a trampoline – soon after retailer Pets At Home saw a 300% surge in searches for ‘pet trampolines’.
Lars B Andersen, Founder and MD of Arty Lobster, said: “Our pets give us unconditional love, so it’s not surprising that we want to treat them like other members of the family and want to give them something special at Christmas.”
Lars B Andersen, Founder and MD of Arty Lobster
Lars added: “Our research suggests that we’re spending millions as a nation on our pets with the festive season proving to be a particular time to treat our four-legged best friends.”
The latest estimated figures suggest there are approximately 20 million pet owners in the UK (excluding fish) with 8.5 million dogs and 7.4 million cats, and that one in two households now owns a pet**.
*Britons’ spending on pets surpassed £4.6bn for the first time in 2015, according to Euromonitor data.
**Latest available estimated figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA).
A pair of porkers have been given a licence to trot after their owners got a special permit to take them on pig walkies – on a lead.
The Kunakuna pigs, called Mabel and Betsy, enjoy a stroll down a popular canal path as part of their trotting regime after their owners got special permission for the route.
Staff at the care centre for adults with additional needs, where the duo live, needed the special licence for the monthly outing due to foot and mouth restrictions which classes the walk as ‘transportation’.
Ben Wright regularly takes Mabel and Betsy the Kunekune pigs for walks
Ben Wright, 30, Managing Director at the Waves Centre in Slaithwaite, West Yorks., said:
“We get some double takes from about 50 metres away and people look and expect to see a dog.
“And they get a bit closer and the penny drops – and the dog’s reaction is honestly priceless.
“But it’s great because it introduces Waves to people and the pigs get some exercise too – which they do need.”
Ben added: “From us it is important for our members because they’ve been looked after and cared for all their lives – and it’s nice for them to do the caring themselves.”
The centre only has one harness for Betsy and Mabel so the pair have to take it in turns for a work out – and taking time out to munch on leaves in the process.
It is a special occasion when the two pigs go for the walk – because they only venture out on the expedition about 12 times a year.
Speaking about the idea, Ben added: “We got the pigs two years ago and it was starting to get popular and we settled on the kunakuna pigs because they are miniature compared to the real things.
“But now because they’ve grown so much – we’ve had to make a custom harness due to the fact dog ones are just not big enough.
“We try to take them out for a few monthly outings as a group – but they’ve just grown and outgrown their harnesses.
“We only take the pigs on a relatively short walk, but sometimes that can take up to two hours – it’s all good fun though.”
The duo have a special licence to walk along the towpath – because a walk still classes as ‘transportation’ in official guidelines.
Regulations introduced after the foot and mouth outbreak meant animals with a cloven hoof need a licence to be transported.
Ben added: “We had to submit a route that we will take the pigs on and the society which registers them checked that no other pigs covered that route.”
Betsy and Mabel are firm favourites at the Waves centre, which also boasts an array of animals, including chickens, a chinchilla, guinea pigs, a rabbit, tropical fish, a bearded dragon, a tortoise, a tarantula and lovebirds.
However the pig pair will never be food – but some of the chicken’s eggs are used for food and some are hatched to become chicks.
Ben says using the eggs help members “to understand about the way of life”.
Waves, which has collected 110 members since opening six years ago, has 31 members of staff running the facilities from its base near Huddesfield, West Yorks., all year round.
Running free: However Beagles are tragically still widely use in clinical trials in UK
Run Free Alliance – the UK’s only registered charity dedicated to the welfare and protection of dogs used in clinical testing – will this Thursday visit Number 10 Downing Street, to present a petition in excess of 135,000 signatures to end the practice of animal use in clinical trials in the UK.
The campaign has already received the backing of Sir David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, as well as a number of high profile individuals from the entertainment sector including actor, Peter Egan, and musician, Sia.
Each year 3,000 to 4,000 Beagles – the animal testing industry’s dog of choice – are experimented on by the pharmaceuticals industry in the UK.
The latest statistics show that 3,241 Beagles were used in 2015 (an increase of 499 compared to statistics for 2014) in 4,346 procedures (an increase of 239 compared to statistics for 2014). Despite the use and subsequent death of these animals, approximately 92% – 96% of all drugs tested fail in human clinical trials.
While the use of animal testing for cosmetics products was abolished in the UK in 1998 (and in the EU in March 2013), toxicity tests prevail – a hangover from an archaic law introduced after the second world war designed to safeguard against the initial testing of scientific products on humans.
As Christine Wynne, Chairman & Founder of the Run Free Alliance explains, the vast majority of the general public is unaware of how this increasingly covert industry operates:
“The important thing to emphasise is that we are not an animal activist group as we do not demonstrate or protest”, said Wynne.
“Additionally we do not use sensationalist images on social media to shock people into response. This is about an archaic law that allows companies to breed and test on beagles throughout laboratories in the UK – an abhorrently outdated practice in an age of animal welfare awareness that is no longer necessary for clinical and toxicity testing, and should have been abolished a long time ago.”
Run Free has been a member of the UK Government Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit stakeholders group since 2011, gaining official charity status in 2015. The organisation is made up of six trustees and 5 management professionals and in addition to celebrity endorsements has the support of globally recognised expert Dr. Andrew Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics at Winchester University, as its scientific advisor.
The petition, calling on the Government to ‘Abolish the breeding for & use of Beagles for animal experimentation in the UK’ will be presented to Parliament at No. 10 Downing Street at 2pm on Thursday 24th November. From there, the Govt. Petitions Committee will meet to decide whether the petition can be debated in the House of Commons.
The Run Free Alliance was created in 2011 and granted full UK charity status in 2015. It is run by a team of six trustees and five management professionals who do not receive any remuneration for their work from the charity’s fundraising. It exists to promote the welfare, care and future of beagles used for scientific experimentation in the UK, and to provide support to qualified research bodies working on alternative types of scientific testing and research to those involving animals.
Britain’s owners of 8.5 million dogs spend an estimated £10.6 billion on their pets every year, according to a new report.
The average owner splashes out £1,252 annually on their four-legged friend.
On top of food and vet bills, some devoted owners even pay for ‘pawlates’ – Pilates for dogs.
The study by American Express shows the pooch care boom has triggered a rise in the number of small businesses springing up to cater for the rising demand.
A survey of 1,000 dog owners revealed that six in ten use small independent businesses when shopping for their pets.
Over a quarter said they spend more money on their pets now than they did five years ago.
The research found that, on average, owners spent £393.48 a year on dog food – the biggest single cost.
Other necessary expenditure included insurance (£243.24) and vet bills and medicines (£73.33).
The remaining £541.46 spent on average per pooch went on toys, professional grooming, kennels, clothing and accessories.
Power of the Pooch Pound rises as owners spend £10.64 billion on their pets: Autumn, an afghan hound, chooses between leads shown by Holly Johnson, the Manager of Hair of the Dog, a pet groomers and boutique in Highgate, London.
When it comes to birthdays, over a third buy their pup a cake and six in ten get them a gift.
American Express conducted the survey ahead of Small Business Saturday on 3rd December.
Alice Noone, Vice President Marketing at American Express said: “As a champion of small businesses we recognise their importance to the health of the local economy.
“However, this research also highlights the role these small independent shops play in maintaining the health and happiness of our family pets.
“We hope to encourage dog lovers to lend their support and shop small on 3rd December and beyond.”
One of the businesses seeing growth as a result of the boom includes Sudbury Dog Company in Suffolk, which launched in 2012.
Owner Genevieve Parsons said: “We are a family business with the welfare of dogs at heart and we offer a number of services that help dogs to be happy, confident and sociable – from puppy socialisation classes and training to dog birthday parties.
“As a small business, we have the opportunity to be nimble and offer programmes which really make a difference to pets and their owners’ lives – so it’s fantastic to be involved in a campaign which celebrates that.”
Holly Johnson, manager of Hair of the Dog in Highgate, London, said: “One of the benefits of being a small business is that we can talk to our customers on a daily basis, ensuring that we’re constantly up to date with what they need so we can offer the best service and products for happy, healthy pets.
“We’re also able to source unique products which aren’t readily available on the high street, giving local pet owners a reason to come to us.
“As a result, we have a built a very loyal customer base over the years – those who have been with us since launching in 2010 and those who have joined since.”
The world’s most famous animal rescue, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, once again wowed the world last night with the return of its star-studded Collars & Coats Gala Ball at the iconic Battersea Evolution in London.
Craig Revel Horwood
Celebrating its eighth successful year, the high-profile event is a highlight of the autumn social calendar, and is consistently regarded as one of the most unique and eagerly anticipated charity events.
The annual charity extravaganza saw a host of UK and international stars take to the red carpet for this worthwhile cause to raise vital funds for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home’s work in rescuing and re-homing abandoned dogs.
Dr Christian Jessen
This year’s star line-up, from the world of TV, music, film, sport and fashion, included: Battersea Ambassadors Dame Jacqueline Wilson and David Gandy, and friends of the Home, Craig Revel Horwood, Dr Christian Jessen, Guy Henry, Danielle Bux, Hilary Alexander, Charles Worthington, Harry Hill and Leah Weller, and the iconic music group Sister Sledge. Guests and stars were welcomed by the popular ‘Battersea Doggie Guard Of Honour’ – a red-carpet parade of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home’s pooches.
Britain’s Got Talent gymnastics troupe Spellbound opened the glittering event with a breath-taking performance. Battersea ambassadors and supporters including David Gandy, Dr Christian Jessen, Craig Revel Horwood, Guy Henry, and Dame Jacqueline Wilson united on stage to highlight the work and achievements of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
Other highlights of this year’s event included a spectacular performance by headline act Sister Sledge who brought their legendary R’n’B and disco hits to the dance floor. Performing their knockout hits We Are Family, Lost In Music, He’s The Greatest Dancer and Rise and Shine, as well as performing their new single Woman are the Music of the World which has become an anthem for women and girl empowerment, the fabulous trio of Debbie, Kim, and Joni Sledge led the dazzling line up of entertainment.
High profile guests and celebrities also enjoyed the opportunity to bid for an array of money can’t buy experiences at the event’s exclusive auction.
Claire Horton, Battersea’s Chief Executive said: “The Collars & Coats Gala Ball is a truly unique event, celebrating our animals and raising money to care for the 8,000 dogs and cats that come through our gates, abandoned and terrified each year. Once again, we’re thrilled that so many supporters and friends of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home gave so generously of their time to make the event so successful.’’
The Headline Sponsor of this year’s Collars & Coats Gala Ball was Vitabiotics SuperDog. SuperDog is committed to maintaining health and vitality in dogs, and is from the pet division of pioneering British company Vitabiotics. The Gala’s Champagne Reception was exclusively sponsored by Medivet the Vet with almost 30 years’ experience. Medivet is passionate about providing amazing client and patient care throughout their 141 practices.
It costs Battersea over £10m to care for its dogs and cats every year, and with no government funding, the Collars & Coats Gala Ball is all about helping to increase awareness of the important work the charity does each and every day of the year to offer a second chance in life to thousands of animals.
Last year over 8,000 dogs and cats needed Battersea’s care and attention to help find them the best possible new homes.
For further information on Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and to pledge donations, please visit www.battersea.org.uk, or call 0207 627 7883.
Following a nationwide search for Britain’s most active pet, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Lily, who was rescued from a puppy farm in 2014 was chosen from over 140 entries by a judging panel from NOAH, with the help of two guest judges Marie Carter, Editor of Pets Magazine and Sarah Kidby from PetFocus who selected the shortlist.
Lily’s athletic abilities and spirited nature caught the attention of the judges during the competition, which ran as part of the organisation’s Happy, Healthy Pets Project – an online gallery aiming to build the UK’s largest ever picture of pet health. Following its launch in 2015, the Happy Healthy Pets Project now stands at over 2,000 fantastic images of much-loved pets from all over the UK, making it the biggest gallery of its kind and helping put owners in the picture when it comes to pet health by directing them to independent, expert advice on pethealthinfo.org.uk.
Lily’s proud owner Mairead Hughes of Armagh, Northern Ireland says:“I’m absolutely delighted and proud to hear that Lily has won the Active Pets competition. Lily was rescued from a puppy farm in June 2014 at the age of 18 months and I fell for her immediately. She is a joy to have as my companion and loves the outdoors so it’s wonderful that her playful, active nature has been recognised in this way!”
NOAH Chief Executive, Dawn Howard comments:“Judging by the number and quality of entries we’ve received for the competition, it’s not just pet owners who love to keep fit and active, but their pets too. We spotted Lily’s sporty potential straight away and are delighted to name her as our active pets winner. We hope her picture and athletic outlook inspires other pets and owners alike. Helping our pets to get active plays a vital role in their physical and mental wellbeing – all part of the ‘Happy Healthy Pet’ our photo gallery promotes. Whatever your pet’s favourite activity, it’s important that all animals are given an environment where they can live happily and healthily and benefit from the exercise they need. It’s encouraging to see so many pictures of pets in the UK doing just that.”
Marie Carter, Editor of Pets Magazine who shortlisted Lily to win the competition comments:“All of the entries were of such a high standard that it was extremely difficult to choose finalists and an eventual winner. Our winner Lily looks so happy in this photo. She’s running so fast, she’s taken off! Her ears are flying and she’s sporting a huge grin. She must be chasing her owner who has treats, or else a squirrel! Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are wrongly judged as lap dogs but, as this photo proves, they can be very sporting dogs who just so happen to like a nice warm lap too!”
Bill was so ill with arthritis that euthanasia was considered
A dog, whose crippling arthritis became so bad he was almost put to sleep to end his misery, is now able to walk again – thanks to PDSA vets.
Bill the Springer Spaniel was so riddled with the condition that at his lowest point he could barely rise from his bed. And when he did, he was only able to drag his back legs across the floor.
Owner Doreen Fawcett (64) from Walker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said she was left devastated at how quickly her loving and energetic companion deteriorated before her eyes.
She said: “Bill has suffered from arthritis for several years and was on medication for it but a few months ago he suddenly became really poorly.
“He collapsed and couldn’t walk at all. He just went downhill so quickly it was absolutely awful. I was crying my eyes out because I knew he was suffering so much.”
Doreen immediately took eleven-year-old Bill to PDSA’s Newcastle Pet Hospital where vets carried out X-rays to discover the extent of his condition.
PDSA senior vet, Clare Hinchliffe, said: “We carried out tests which showed that Bill had spondylosis of the spine, a degenerative condition, as well as narrow space between his spinal discs.
“He also had severe arthritis in his hips and knees which was causing him constant pain. Because Bill’s condition was so severe, we had to consider putting him to sleep. But we decided, with Doreen’s approval, to try a different treatment.”
Bill was already receiving an anti-inflammatory drug, together with a joint supplement but PDSA vets decided to try adding in another medication, that combats pain in a different way, as a last resort.
Clare added: “We don’t tend to use this combination of drugs as a standard long-term treatment for arthritis in dogs but in Bill’s case it was the only option.”
Thankfully, the new regime of drugs began to take effect and there was a significant improvement in Bill’s pain levels and mobility.
Doreen said: “PDSA have been wonderful and, thanks to the new treatment, Bill is so much better than he was.
“He couldn’t get up at all before but now he can walk around and even climb up and down the stairs. Bill is such a happy dog, he loves everyone and he loves life.”
PDSA is raising awareness of conditions such as arthritis, thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman says pet owners can also play a vital part in alleviating the discomfort caused by arthritis: “We see many cases of arthritis where the pet can be helped not only through veterinary care, but also through weight reduction and appropriate levels of exercise.
“Recognising symptoms and taking early action can help alleviate pain and slow the progression of the condition.”
Facts about arthritis:
Over a pet’s lifetime, the smooth joint surfaces can be worn away, which can result in inflammation of the joints, stiffness and reduced mobility, resulting in arthritis.
Obesity can lead to the onset of arthritis as it causes additional pressure on the joints.
Advances in veterinary medicine means there is a range of treatments available to help manage arthritis and put the spring back in your pet’s paws.
It’s important to keep pets mobile even in their twilight years. Older pets might look happy curled up on the sofa, but a short walk – even if it is only to the end of the road or a trot round the garden – on a regular basis, could help keep joints moving and stiffness at bay.
For further information about PDSA and free pet health advise visit www.pdsa.org.uk
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will particularly benefit as they are 20 times more likely to suffer from MVD compared to other dogs
Pet dogs suffering from heart disease could live 15 months longer according to groundbreaking new research released today.
The global EPIC study, led by Professor Adrian Boswood of the Royal Veterinary College, has found that treatment with the drug pimobendan delays the onset of heart failure secondary to mitral valve disease (MVD), the most common form of heart disease in dogs.
The results, published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, found that treating dogs with enlarged hearts – an early warning sign of progressive heart disease – before they displayed any outward signs of the condition delayed the onset of heart failure by an average of 15 months, with dogs that received the drug also living significantly longer than those receiving a placebo.
Evidence was so conclusive, the study was terminated early following an interim analysis as it was deemed unethical to continue to withhold treatment from the placebo group.
Heart disease is one of the top five causes of death of dogs in the UK1, with MVD accounting for the majority of cases. The disease is caused by the deterioration of one of the heart valves and predominantly affects small breed dogs, including Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Dachshunds, Miniature Poodles and terrier breeds. It is also a common condition in elderly humans.
It’s crucial that all owners get their dog’s heart checked regularly by their vet. This is especially true for small breed dogs over the age of 7 years old, as this is when the risk increases.
Professor Boswood described why regular heart health checks are so important for dogs: “The vast majority of dogs with this heart disease will show no signs of the problem for quite some time, although they may have a heart murmur. This makes it crucial that all owners get their dog’s heart checked regularly by their vet. This is especially true for small breed dogs over the age of 7 years old, as this is when the risk increases.
“The exception is Cavalier King Charles spaniels, who are around 20 times more prone to this heart disease and can be affected much earlier in life, from around 5 years old, so need to be checked earlier and more regularly.”
The EPIC (Evaluating Pimobendan in Cardiomegaly) study is the most robust of its kind in veterinary medicine, taking 7 years to complete and working to the highest standards of clinical research, rivalling that of human trials. There were 360 dogs involved in the study, across 11 countries and 4 continents, making the results relevant for dogs and owners across the world.
A recent survey of dog owners found that more than half (53%) of small breed dog owners did not think their dog was at risk of developing heart disease, despite MVD being more prevalent in these breeds3. However, more than one in three (34%) would want to do anything possible to prevent their pet from developing the signs of heart disease.
Broadcaster Gloria Hunniford owns two cavalier King Charles spaniels; Roxy who is 4 and Gemma who is 8: “Our beautiful dog Gemma was diagnosed with a heart condition after she collapsed earlier this year, but before that we saw no real signs that she might be unwell – thankfully she’s doing well with the right medication.
Gloria Hunniford’s older dog Gemma is affected by MVD
“Knowing first-hand the effects of this disease, the fact that there’s now something that owners can do to help protect their dogs from the effects is fantastic news. I’m sure that, for most owners, there would be no question about taking the opportunity to give their dog the chance of a longer, healthier life.”
Jenny Jackson, owns 13-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Alfie, who took part in the EPIC trial: “I found out by chance that Alfie was diagnosed with a heart condition at one of his routine check-ups. They discovered he had a grade 4 heart murmur and was referred to the RVC where he was recommended to take part in the trial.
“Alfie has been a constant source of companionship since my husband died of cancer in 2009. Alfie has been there through it all, when I first started seeing my new partner Craig and then when my daughter Ellie was born.
“Since taking part in the trial, Alfie’s heart murmur has dropped to a grade 3 which is a significant milestone for his health. The results have been very positive as he became leaner and more agile; it is as if he had stopped aging.”*
It can be relatively easy for a vet to detect suspected MVD, but an ultrasound scan and radiograph (x-ray) may be required to decide whether a dog will benefit from treatment. Pet owners are urged to speak to their vet about the risk of heart disease in their dog, especially if they own a small breed dog over the age of 7 years or a cavalier King Charles spaniel over 5 years old.
EPIC Study Case Study – Jenny Jackson
Alfie and family
Jenny Jackson, from Bedfordshire, owns a 13-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel called Alfie. Alfie was diagnosed with preclinical MVD when he was 8 years old at the Royal Veterinary College where they established he had a grade 4 heart murmur.
Alfie has been part of Jenny’s family since he was 10 weeks old. Jenny knew she wanted to own a Cavalier since she fell in love with a family friend’s dog of the same breed. “I wanted a lap dog, which was gentle in nature and a Cavvie was the perfect breed for me,” she explained.
Although he has slowed down a bit with age and is slightly deaf now, Alfie is very much a treasured part of the family.
“When we got Alfie, although I had grown-up step children, I didn’t have any children of my own so he was my baby. Tragedy struck the family in 2009 when I lost my husband to cancer. For a while it was just me and Alfie, but his companionship helped to keep me going through the tough times.
“He just fitted in to whatever happened in my life. Alfie has been there through it all, when I first started seeing my new partner Craig and then when my daughter Ellie was born. He is a constant and reliable source of love and affection. He and Ellie have become very close, like brother and sister.”
Jenny described the day she found out Alfie had developed preclinical MVD: “I found out that Alfie had preclinical MVD by chance, it was at a routine visit to the vets and they discovered Alfie had a grade 4 heart murmur. I was then referred to a cardiologist specialist at the RVC where it was discovered that Alfie had preclinical MVD.”
When Jenny first discovered Alfie had preclinical MVD, she was concerned for Alfie’s health, but she was aware that Cavalier King Charles spaniels were predisposed to this condition.
“I was prepared for Alfie to have heart disease as I had done my research about the breed when Alfie was a puppy, but I had not heard of the term MVD in dogs, only in humans and I was worried for Alfie’s health. As a loving dog owner, you want to know what the prognosis is for your dog, and you want to know the extent of the problem early on if possible. You love them all the same though no matter what their condition is, and I would try anything to help Alfie. Alfie has done well health-wise for a Cavvie for his age and we expected at some point to see some effects of heart disease.”
Jenny found out about the EPIC trial during one of Alfie’s regular heart check-ups at the RVC.
“Adrian Boswood, Professor of Cardiology at the RVC suggested that Alfie should take part in the trial. He said Alfie was the right dog to take part in terms of breed, age and diagnosis. We thought, what did we have to lose? We had to take part and give Alfie a chance.”
To take part in the EPIC trial, Alfie had to have his heart beats recorded the week before his check-up. During the trial period, Alfie had check-ups every four months and be administered a tablet each day – ½ in the morning, ½ in the evening.
“Alfie was a good little patient and enjoyed the stroking and attention that staff were giving him,” Jenny added. “He was so laid back that I believe on occasion the hospital didn’t need to sedate him for X-rays. It was a great feeling to take part in the trial, we were so glad that there was something we could do for Alfie. The mere fact that his heart was monitored so closely by experts at the RVC (every 4 months) was a huge benefit in itself.”
Within a few months of starting the trial, Alfie’s murmur had gone down a grade, which was remarkable. The trial finished and despite what the vets originally said, Alfie has outlived the study.*
Jenny said the trial has affected Alfie’s health for the better: “Firstly the fact that the grade went from a 4 to 3 was a significant milestone in terms of what was going on inside Alfie. He also started to show positive results as he became leaner and more agile; it was as if he had stopped aging. Even now, he looks like a much younger dog than 13 (almost 14). He sleeps a lot more and is a bit stiff when he first wakes up, but after a good stretch he’s fine. He has never fainted since, never developed a cough or been significantly out of breath. His appetite is ‘greedy’ given half a chance, although he is on a strict diet! The only sign of ageing is the fact that he appears to be a slightly deaf now.”
Jenny added: “I definitely think it’s important to know what you’re dealing with when it comes to your dog’s health, and to do your research when you decide to own a specific dog breed. You can then prepare yourself to take appropriate action when needed. It does become an education process for owners, but when you take on a dog that is predisposed to certain diseases, you need to do the best for them. I think the overwhelming results that have come out of the EPIC study are so important and good news for dog owners. Knowing that there is something out there that these dogs can now take to help extend their life is truly amazing. It is lovely to know that Alfie will be by my side for longer.”
“Having Alfie be involved in such a ground-breaking study in canine cardiology is such an honour. I like to think Alfie has left a legacy in some way.”
Alfie is now on a management programme developed by the RVC to control his MVD.
*(N.B, Jenny does not know if Alfie was on the placebo or pimobendan)
Pets Magazine’s Nell, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
It’s official – dog owners in the UK are fitter and healthier than people without dogs, according to a new study.
Research indicates that people who own a dog are likely to exercise at least three times more a week than the rest of the nation, as they walk or run for an average of 74 minutes every day, in addition to their normal exercise.
In the process, dog owners will cover an average distance of 1092 miles a year on foot, compared to the 364 miles walked by those who don’t have a one.
The research found that not only did owning a dog affect the amount of walking a person does, but also that dog walkers were more active overall.
As well as walking around the neighbourhood daily, it emerged dog owners are more likely to walk than drive anywhere, more likely to take the stairs than the lift, and are generally always on their feet.
In contrast, people who don’t own a dog only keep fit twice a week, and walk for just 18 minutes a day.
A resounding 73 per cent of owners say they love the fact they manage to get so much exercise now they own a dog, with the majority feeling fitter, healthier and more energetic since owning a dog, and not just in body, but in spirit too.
One in three dog owners said walking their dogs allowed them to de-stress after work, and a quarter felt it helped them to escape their busy schedules.
A spokeswoman for Butcher’s Pet Care, which commissioned the research into 2,000 dog owners, said: “It’s fantastic that owners and their dogs involved in our research are so fit and healthy with the majority going for walks at least twice a day, and this is having a positive impact on their owner’s health which is great to see.
“We know dog owners will walk far more than the average adult, as exercising their dog becomes part of their daily routine. Rather than relaxing in the garden dog owners are likely to be running around playing, and instead of nipping down the corner shop in the car, they’ll put the dog on the lead and walk.
“There are also some great social aspects to owning a dog, such as chatting with other owners when out walking – almost one in ten surveyed said they had met one of their closest friends walking their dog.
“Overall it’s safe to say that dog owners are generally more active and spend more time up and about than those people who don’t have a dog to look after – it’s a really great lifestyle choice!”
The poll reveals the average owner spends 58 minutes a day walking with the dog – which equates to approximately 3 miles a day and 21 miles over the course of one week.
This means dog lovers are walking an incredible 351 hours a year, covering a distance of 1092 miles.
In addition to miles walked, owners are chasing their dog around the garden for 16 minutes every day, that’s 97 hours every year.
And the average dog owner also goes for a jog with their dog between two and three times a week for good measure.
Researchers discovered the bigger the breed of the dog, the fitter dog owners were too, with Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs and Boxers needing the most number of walks per day.
A fifth of dog owners like the fact they get to meet and bump into other people when out and about, while a third make the most of the only fresh air they’ll get during the day.
Interestingly, one in 10 people will happily use walking the dog as an excuse to avoid a nagging partner, while one in 20 use the time to catch-up on the phone with their mum or dad.
A quarter of people polled like dog walking as they can escape a hectic schedule and 14 per cent say it is good to get technology-free time.
Some lucky dogs don’t just benefit from walks with their owner – the study indicated one in 10 dogs attend group walking classes, while six per cent go to agility classes.
Four per cent of dogs go to doga – the practise of yoga for dogs.
The Butcher’s Pet Care Spokeswoman continues: “Decades ago, owners very rarely needed to walk their dog as they were often just let out into the garden or roamed the local area freely, but times have changed! It is now up to the owners to keep their dogs fit and due to this their fitness levels have increased too.
“We carried out the research to highlight the many benefits of owning a dog and we hope that it will encourage more dog owners to focus on the health of their pets which includes taking them on regular walks, but also feeding them a natural, meat based and wholesome diet, as the two go hand in hand.”
BREAKDOWN OF STATISTICS
58 minutes walking with the dog
16 minutes running around the garden with the dog
Dog owners – walk / run for total of 74 minutes each day excluding normal exercise, averaging 3 miles
3 miles x 7 days = 21 miles a week
21 miles x 52 weeks = 1092 miles a year
Non dog owners – walk / run for total of 18 minutes each day excluding normal exercise, averaging 1 mile
1 mile x 7 days = 7 miles a week
7 miles x 52 weeks = 364 miles a year