Category Archives: News

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Crufts horror at deformed animals, unless we intend to eat them

Today’s post is kindly sponsored by Mekuti – Life in balance

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It’s Crufts time again; the time to celebrate the wonder of dogs and to recoil at the horror of the ruining of some breeds by unscrupulous breeders.

The pivotal documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed thrust the Kennel Club into the limelight and resulted in both the BBC and RSPCA distancing themselves from the show.

While this public stoning of the Kennel Club helped raised awareness of this issue, the footage from the 2016 show indicates little progress, particularly with some specific breeds.

A friend was shocked to hear I was watching Crufts as she was so upset at the way in which animals had been bred, saying she would never buy a pedigree animal, it got me wondering about the similarity between the animals bred for food that the majority have no concern about, and these dogs that have received national sympathy.

Much like this time last year, the best if breed German Shepherd has shocked a nation of dog lovers, and rightly so.

The roached back of these dogs is shocking and we should be ashamed to have turned a once athletic dog into this deformed creature. With its ataxic gait, it is clear that walking is not easy for these poor souls, however, lets compare a German shepherd to a modern broiler chicken.

A show German shepherd showing the dog placing weight on its hocks

Now contrast the German shepherd with these modern broiler hens.

Both have been selectively bred by mankind for a wanted trait. With the dog, the ‘ideal’ dog is one that fits a specific guideline, with the chicken, the ideal chicken is one that grows big and fast – so big and fast that its skeleton cannot grow quick enough and it often collapses under its own weight.

So I ask you, why is the dog suffering unacceptable but the broiler chicken an example of good modern breeding?

The next example, is the modern dairy cow. An animal that we have bred to produce up to 6000 liters of milk every year. In order to produce this volume of milk, farmers have bred cows to have larger and larger udders. So large in fact that they can strain their own udder ligaments under the excessive weight of milk and may need to wear an artificial udder support.

Is this more acceptable than the cavalier king Charles spaniel with a brain too large for its own skull or the Neapolitan mastiff with skin so profuse it can’t see?

Do farm animals not matter?

I firmly applaud those standing up for the insanity of trait exaggeration at crufts, but firmly believe our efforts must be shared to all animal that we have inflicted our horrific breeding practices on, not just the fluffy ones we share our living rooms with.

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The culture of canine care – is the UK lifestyle damaging our dogs?

Spike's World

Moving from the UK to Slovakia was sure to be a culture shock – the language barrier, the weather, the crazy traffic; it’s easy to think that life in Eastern Europe may be more stressful than back in the UK, but what about life for Slovak dogs?

When I first moved here I was amazed at how relaxed and well behaved the dogs are. Many pet parents walk the wide pavements with their dogs off the lead, or on a very loose lead. There is little to no barking, no dog aggression, no pulling on the lead, no jerking of leads, just lots of very chilled canines.

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I can’t help wonder why there is this massive cultural difference between Slovakia and the UK… Now, I’m not saying that all dogs in the UK are crazed canines, but we certainly have a generation of dogs that in all honesty, are under exercised and under stimulated. The ‘weekend warrior’ pet owner with a dog that only sees the outside world at weekends (if it’s lucky) can be spotted a mile off buy conscientious dog owners.

Pulling on the flat collar attached to a lead can damage a dog’s delicate trachea

Here in Slovakia, it’s common to see dogs being walked at all times of the day and joining their pet parents in the local bars for drink or accompanying them to the market (even helping by carrying a basket!).  Could this greater integration of dogs into family life be the key to their well mannered behaviour?   It certainly is food for thought.

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This beautiful German Shepherd was carrying a wicker basket to the market. Note the way it walks on a relaxed, loose leash.

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Finally an update…

Spike's World

 

 

 

It’s been a month and I’m ashamed to say this is my first update from University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Košice, Slovakia.  The past four weeks have been an emotional whirlwind of new languages to learn and new subjects to get to grips with.

While our courses are taught in English, much of the veterinary terminology is delivered in Latin – having only used Latin to describe species, learning the intricacies of Latin grammar has certainly got the old grey matter working, but I can see how essential this terminology is for medical terminology to cross borders and languages.

Noses

It pays to know you noses – learning the anatomical differences between species is key to understand anatomy.

It is well known that veterinary medicine is an extremely hard degree and if I’m honest, I hadn’t imagined it would involve the level of work we have already had.  Studying in Slovakia is certainly different from a standard degree in the UK. For a start, there is no room for failure.  In the UK it is possible to fail a certain number of credits annually and still graduate – in Slovakia, all credits need to be passed to undertake exams and to progress to the following year.   As you can imagine, this pressure is very motivating – fail and the veterinary dream is over.

Bones

  Bones of all shapes and sizes can be studied in the university museum

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There are some live animals on campus for some much needed horse therapy if time allows.

I will do my best to keep the updates coming, particularly with some of the exciting modules I have in store next semester. For the time being, it’s time to dive head first into more anatomy revision.

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A passion for compassion

 

Spike's World

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am lucky enough to have surrounded myself with many friends that share my love of animals.  I had always assumed that this shared passion was driven by a simple love of animals, but I now wonder if we all in fact have an ingrained ‘passion for compassion.’

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I started to think about this after rescuing a Phalaenopsis orchid from the discount section of Ikea.   It was in very poor condition when I saved it, but with time and care it not only bloomed, but produced two young known as keikis.

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Left to right: The mother plant with her two keikis

These young orchids were growing on the flower spike that it had produced and after a year or so they were ready to be weaned from the parent plant and potted into their own pots.

Not having any experience of weaning baby orchids, I did some research online and came across the Youtube channel of ‘Miss Orchid Girl’, Danny.  Her videos are not only wonderfully additive for those who love orchids and full of useful information, but I was struck by the similarity in the way she cares for her orchids and the way me and my fellow animal rescuers care for our rescued animals.

I then learned that not only does Danny care for her orchids with love and passion, but she also cares for rescued birds, including her dove Jackie.

Caring for pigeons myself and having lived with a house pigeon for many years I realised that Danny and I have a very similar personality which I have coined the ‘passion for compassion.’

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Having a ‘passion for compassion’ to me means caring for life in all its forms such as seeing an orchid in a store in the reduced section and feeling the need to take it  home to make it healthy or finding a spider has built a web in the house and being kind enough to leave it in peace. These are all compassionate acts that some may find it hard to understand, yet fellow ‘passion for compassion’ people find it equally hard to understand why people would not want to show kindness in these circumstances.

Danny’s My Orchid Story section highlights the way 2something as simple as a plant can help heal broken hearts and bring light into the lives of caring people.  To me, this shows that the very act of caring for another being can help our mental and emotional health and with that, heal our bodies.

It is clear that Danny shares my upset at losing a rescued animal or plant – a feeling so strong that many non-caring people find it hard to understand the hole left by the death of an animal.  Moving into the veterinary field is a daunting prospect as I know there will be many heartbreaking stories to be told, but I hope that my ‘passion for compassion’ will help me through the tough times.

Equally I hope that my lovely orchids that I am leaving behind in the UK continue to thrive and bloom.

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For more information on Danny and her passion for orchids, please visit www.orchidnature.com

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Review: Cold Pressed Salmon Oil by SeaTreats

One of the most important jobs for every pet parent is ensuring they provide a balanced, healthy diet.  For many, even those feeding a complete diet, this means offering high quality supplements.

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Omega 3 oils are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid and come in many forms, namely, EPA, DHA and ALA.  People can convert the form known as ALA to the healthful EPA and DHA but dogs are not as proficient at this process as they lack the enzyme needed so need to consume EPA and DHA directly for optimum health. As fish are a great source of EPA and DHA, fish and fish products are a key source of omega 3 for our canine companions.

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I was lucky enough to get my hands on some Cold Pressed Salmon Oil from one of my favourite companies, SeaTreats. SeaTreats sell only MSC certified fish, so you can be sure you are buying ethically sourced products.

As I mentioned in my previous article, grass fed meat would have provided our pets with lots of omega 3, but modern factory farming means many meats lack this beneficial nutrient.

Why are Omega 3 oils so important?

Omega 3 oils have a host of health benefits but of key importance is its role in reducing inflammation, maintaining a healthy skin and coat and aiding brain function.

Many dogs suffer from the pain and of arthritis and a study of omega 3 supplementation found that arthritic dogs were better able to weight bare (Roush et al. 2010).

Dogs of all breeds, but particularly Labrador retrievers can suffer from the uncomfortable skin condition, atopic dermatitis.  Studies show that enriching the diet with omega 3 oil can be beneficial in managing this condition (Gueck et al. 2004).

Omega 3 oils are great for brain development and can give a puppy a head start in life – it has been shown that puppies with high DHA levels were more readily trainable than those with low levels.  We all want a well behaved dog and it seems supplementation can be a simple way to make those formative months more productive (Kelley et al. 2004).

With  all these benefits, it’s clear many pets could benefit from the oils in SeaTreats Cold Pressed Salmon Oil. Luckily, unlike the notoriously bad tasting cod liver oil (for humans that is), SeaTreats Cold Pressed Salmon Oil tastes great.

In true Labrador fashion, Molly was drooling before the oil had been poured into the spoon!

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Humbug the cat, while being far too refined to eat from a teaspoon, couldn’t get enough of the smell of the bottle, proving that our feline companions can also enjoy this health giving oil.  As medical care for cats improves, our feline friends are living longer.  It is therefore so important to ensure we offer all the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy frame for our cats as well as our dogs.

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For more information and to order some for yourself, please visit SeaTreats online.

 

References

Gueck T., Seidel A., Baumann D., Meister A. & Fuhrmann H. (2004). Alterations of mast cell mediator production and release by gamma-linolenic and docosahexaenoic acid. Veterinary dermatology, 15, 309-14.

Kelley R., Lepine A., Burr J., Shyan-Norwalt M. & Reinhart G. (2004). Effect of dietary fish oil on puppy trainability. In: Proceedings.

Roush J.K., Cross A.R., Renberg W.C., Dodd C.E., Sixby K.A., Fritsch D.A., Allen T.A., Jewell D.E., Richardson D.C., Leventhal P.S. & Hahn K.A. (2010). Evaluation of the effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 236, 67-73.

 

*All information in this article is for offered without liability and is not intended to treat or diagnose. Please visit your vet for advice on care and nutrition for your pets
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Do we have a nation of unemployed dogs?

Spike's World

Last weekend was the fantastic SPARCS conference, an annual gathering of some of the finest minds in canine science. This event brings together researchers from a wide range of canine related fields, but if Twitter was anything to go by, it was clear that there was one standout word on the lips of everyone involved this year – EUSTRESS.

Eustress in essence means ‘good stress’ and was initially explored in model looking at stress in its many forms (Lazarus 1974). We often consider stress to be a negative emotion, yet many of us fail to recognise that the feelings of anticipation and even the joy at meeting a friend can all be considered stress, in terms of the physiological release of cortisol. Stress is managed through the activation of the HPA (hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal) axis which is a group of organs that regulate the response to stress.

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Responsible breeders strive to expose puppies to small stressors as they develop which helps in the deployment of this stress system. Experiencing an appropriate level of stress allows the HPA axis to develop resilience, stopping an overreaction to stress in adult life. However, too much stress can swing the pendulum too far into distress, so this must be carefully managed to not cause more harm than good.

How do modern dogs experience eustress?

Many dogs live very different lives from the lives their breed ancestors would have had. Very few pet Labradors spend hours retrieving game in our modern age and most border collies don’t have access to sheep – these dogs are unemployed. A study by the Kennel Club found 20% of dog owners do not even give their dogs a daily walk!

Lack of exercise and stimulation leads to obesity which has become all too commonplace in many of our animal companions, We have become accustomed to assuming Labradors must be overweight whereas this is far from the truth. Compare these two labradors, both of working type.
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The lack of a job to do and the boredom that goes along with living an unstimulated existence swings the stress pendulum to the realms of chronic distress rather than eustress and can result in physical and behavioural abnormalities.

It’s important to understand that even dogs that do not show obvious outward signs of stress may be suffering – chronic boredom may result in general depression.

Small stressors may help build resilience. One of the most important gifts we can give our canine companions is the ability to cope in new and novel situations. How many of us know dogs that are happy and content at home but bark and new and novel sounds or objects? How many of us have dogs that startle easily when out of the home even though the same stressor may have been tolerated on familiar ground?

Resilience is a key life skill, particularly if a dog has to go into kennels in an emergency or has to stay at the veterinarian for treatment. Dogs that have never left the confines of a house and garden are likely to find this transition very stressful at the one time in life that they need to be kept calm and stress free.

So what’s the answer?

If you have an unemployed dog then it’s time to get them on the payroll.

Look at what motivates your dog and find them a job to do. Try obedience, dock diving, agility, lure coursing (chasing an artificial lure just to be clear!), scent trials, or just getting out and exploring somewhere new and exciting, GIVE THEM A CHALLENGE! Isn’t that why you got a dog anyway?

Dogs deserve to feel fulfilled and to have a life purpose. They have amazing senses adapted to see the world in ways we can only dream of and it’s sad that so many do not get to fulfill their full potential.

Give your dog a job and let’s stem the tide of unemployed dogs.

 

Refs

Lazarus R.S. (1974). Psychological Stress and Coping in Adaptation and Illness. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 5, 321-333.

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Review: There’s nothing fishy about these treats

Finding healthy yet tasty treats can be very tricky for pet parents and many are  attempting to dehydrate their own treats at home.

However, after trying to dehydrate some tripe I soon learned that this isn’t for the fainthearted, or anyone who may have guests arriving. The smell was pungent to put it lightly!

I was therefore really excited to get my hands on some of the new dried capelin treats from Seatreats. After being lucky enough to review some of the fab treats from this sustainable pet food company in the past, I knew I was in for a treat!

Capelin are commonly used to make fish meals, and feed on plankton and crustaceans. Being lower on the food chain reduces the risk of the bio-accumulation of toxins that can occur with many larger predatory fish such as swordfish.

The treats are just air dried fish, nothing more, nothing less. Being so minimally processed it is fantastic to know there are no hidden ingredients, which is especially important for anyone with an allergic dog or a one that is on a limited ingredient diet.

Because these treats are so fresh, they do have a strong odour so I would recommend they are kept in a plastic container. However, this string odour makes them super high value for many dogs which means they are invaluable for many training scenarios. They also contain healthy the omega 3 oils I mentioned in my earlier post!

So how do they taste?

Today’s taste tester was the gorgeous Molly the Labrador. Molly suffers from atopic dermatitis and therefore her parents have to be extremely cautious with the food and treats she is given.IMG_0409

 

Before I had opened the bag Molly was bursting with excitement at the smell of these fishy treats and as you can see, she loved every bite!

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For more information on these fantastic treats and to see the entire range, please visit Seatreats online at www.seatreats.co.uk

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Is the pet food industry sustainable?

Spike's World

A comment on Twitter got me thinking about sustainability and how trends in pet food may be impacting the sustainability of the industry.

Sustainability can be thought of on either a global or local scale but in essence it describes the use of an ecosystem in such a way that it provides resources today without compromising its ability to provide resources for future generations.  In my view, the two forms of resources need not be the same for example; a sustainable meat industry must produce meat without harming biodiversity.  Considering biodiversity as a resource may seem strange, but many wild plants and animals provide ‘ecosystem services’ that improve the lives of many people.

Traditionally the pet food industry has been a repository for the waste products of the human food industry and many cheaper pet foods contain meat meals or ‘meat and animal derivatives’. While little research has been conducted into the impact of these ingredients, it might be considered that in using a product that may have been otherwise been wasted, the pet food industry may have been helping to limit the negative impact of the human food industry.  Quantifying this impact is not an easy task, however, a recent trend toward avoiding such ‘by products’ in favour of ‘human grade’ ingredients means that in many cases the pet food industry now competes directly with the human food industry for its raw ingredients.

The production of livestock for meat has been criticized for its inefficient production of protein – in essence with every step up the food chain 90% of the energy put in is lost (known as the 10% law); so it takes a huge amount more energy to produce a kilo of beef than it does a kilo of wheat.   If sustainability was our only consideration then a vegan diet for ourselves and our pets would certainly be the most sustainable, but while our pets may technically be able to survive on such a diet (aside from the fact that cats need the amino acid taurine) they may not thrive on such a species inappropriate diet.

The 10% law says that as we move up the food chain (known as trophic level) only 10% of the energy is transferred.

A move toward using more energy efficient animals as food for our own pets may provide a more sustainable option for conscious pet parents, and the growth of aquaculture may hold the key. Fish are inherently more efficient at converting food in to flesh than birds or mammals. As cold blooded creatures they do not waste energy producing heat and they do not have to grow a big skeleton either.

While aquaculture has the potential for some environmental damage through the leaching of waste products into the environment, this is strictly regulated in the UK and schemes such as the Marine Stewardship Council serve to ensure production is as sustainable as possible.  However, there is thought that moving forward the any waste products of aquaculture may be used to fertilise the growth of aquatic plant products that may in turn be used to feed back to the fish themselves or for human consumption.  Should the plants be used to feed back to the fish, only the very minimum about of nutrients will need to be added to the system, producing a highly efficient and sustainable system.

Sustainability is a concern that is bound to continually arise in the pet food industry, and unless we are all prepared to forgo dog and cat ownership in favour of keeping vegetarian animals such as rabbits, we must all be prepared consider the environmental impact of our choice of pet and the food we feed it.

 

 

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The story of a lost duckling

Having studied zoology I have been lucky enough to explore some beautiful landscapes. I have observed the amazing bird migration that occurs in Cyprus twice a year and have conversed with porcupines in South Africa. Much of the beauty of these landscapes is observing the intricate web that connects all the plant and animal species.

I have been involved in animal rescue for over a decade and have been lucky enough to have been involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of many animals and birds.  Which leaves me in a bit of a dilemma; should we help wildlife in distress or leave it to the ‘circle of life’?

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I nursed Chloe the Muscovy duck back to health in 2003 after she was taken to Bath RSPCA with maggot infected wounds following a dog attack

Recently I was faced with this exact conundrum after I discovered a lost duckling on a local lake here in sunny Cornwall.  A local resident told me she had been observing this duckling all day and had not seen it with a parent bird. The adult ducks had been attacking it and she was shocked to say that the duckling ran to her feet for protection.

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While my zoologist head told me to leave the duck to its fate, my animal loving heart said otherwise and so the duckling came home with me.

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Young ducklings can become very stressed when on their own, so he enjoyed the comfort of a warm blanket and some TTouch therapy. TTouch can help to reduce stress in animals and birds.

After a night of rest and good food I delivered it to the wonderful Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital where it will be cared for until it is old enough to be released. It is currently living with another orphaned duckling and is doing brilliantly.

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He soon settled in with his new friend at the bird hospital (thanks to Mousehole wild bird hospital for this photo)

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With the lovely warm weather here in Cornwall he was soon able to have a swim with his new friend (thanks to Mousehole wild bird hospital for this photo)

It is very important that you seek professional advice from a local wildlife charity or the RSPCA if you find a wild animal in distress. While it can be tempting to try to care for a wild animal on your own, it is imperative that you take it to a wildlife rescue centre and never place yourself in harm’s way to save a wild animal. Remember, animals can attack when threatened or in pain.

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Omega 3 – the super oil for brainy dogs

Omega 3 oils are the new trendy supplement in both the pet food and human market, but unlike many dietary fads, Omega 3 oils are a true ‘super supplement’.

Dogs are facultative carnivores and evolved from wolves (in fact they now share the same name, Canis lupus). Their wild ancestors would have thrived on a diet of wild game that had in turn lived on a diet of wild grasses. Omega 3 oils are made by grasses and algae and therefore, such grass fed animals are a rich source of the Omega 3 oil which dogs cannot manufacture on their own.

Fast-forward to today and sadly many of our farmed animals do not have access to pasture and therefore their own level of Omega 3 is limited.

What are Omega 3 oils?

Omega 3 oils are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid and come in many forms.  Of these forms, ALA, EPA and DHA are the most talked about. People can convert the form known as ALA to the healthful EPA and DHA but dogs are not as proficient at this process and ideally need to consume EPA and DHA directly for optimum health.

Why are they so important?

Omega 3 oils have a host of health benefits but of key importance is its role in reducing inflammation, maintaining a healthy skin and coat and aiding brain function.

Many dogs suffer from the pain and of arthritis and a study of omega 3 supplementation found that arthritic dogs were better able to weight bare (Roush et al. 2010).

Many dogs, particularly Labrador retrievers can suffer from the uncomfortable skin condition, atopic dermatitis.  Studies show that enriching the diet with omega 3 oil can be beneficial in managing this condition (Gueck et al. 2004).

Omega 3 oils are great for brain development and can give a puppy a head start in life – it has been shown that puppies with high DHA levels were more readily trainable than those with low levels.  We all want a well behaved dog and it seems supplementation can be a simple way to make those formative months more productive (Kelley et al. 2004).

I was lucky enough to get my hands on some Sea Treats cold pressed salmon oil which contains both Omega 3 and Omega 6. The ever enthusiastic Roxy was chosen as a taste tester.

While most would mix this oil in with their pet’s food, I opted to see if it was tasty enough to be eaten from a spoon.

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I think this picture speaks for itself!

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For more information about Sea Treats Cold pressed Salmon oil, please visit, www.seatreats.co.uk

References

Gueck T., Seidel A., Baumann D., Meister A. & Fuhrmann H. (2004). Alterations of mast cell mediator production and release by gamma-linolenic and docosahexaenoic acid. Veterinary dermatology, 15, 309-14.

Kelley R., Lepine A., Burr J., Shyan-Norwalt M. & Reinhart G. (2004). Effect of dietary fish oil on puppy trainability. In: Proceedings.

Roush J.K., Cross A.R., Renberg W.C., Dodd C.E., Sixby K.A., Fritsch D.A., Allen T.A., Jewell D.E., Richardson D.C., Leventhal P.S. & Hahn K.A. (2010). Evaluation of the effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 236, 67-73.