A Greater Understanding

Why dog tumors are more useful when studying cancer; not all probiotics are considered equal.


cat and dog

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According to research, feline tumors aren’t used nearly as often as those in dogs to study cancer. While cats tend to have a type of skin cancer in their heads and mouths that some researchers use as a model for human head and neck cancers, dogs are diagnosed more frequently with tumors that overlap with human cancer.

“It’s been a little bit easier to find diseases that really match up,” according to Christopher M. Fulkerson, DVM, MS, of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Additionally, feline tumors may not be diagnosed as frequently as canine tumors. Owners who allow their cats to freely roam outside tend to take them to the veterinarian’s office less often than dog owners do. As a result, cats are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer, simply because it’s less likely to be caught. So what dogs lack in unrestricted outdoors access, they make up for in access to more sophisticated cancer care. As a result, scientists looking to other mammalian tumors to better understand human cancer have more dog samples than cat samples.

Researchers stress they are still trying to improve treatment for felines, however. “Cats may not get top billing for the comparative research, but there definitely are people out there that care about cats with cancer,” said Dr. Fulkerson.

Problem with probiotics

As the popularity of probiotics has boomed, so has the overwhelming diversity of available products. “Not all probiotics are created equally,” stressed Michael Lappin, DVM, PhD, DACVIM at the 2018 Western Veterinary Conference.

A particular probiotic’s reported effect may not carry over across different microbial species or even subspecies. Just as important, different probiotics may have immune-modulating effects that range from immune stimulation to immune dampening.

When choosing probiotics for veterinary use, Dr. Lappin advised picking products that consistently meet the label’s claim and for which the manufacturer can provide stability data to prove the product’s shelf life and number of organisms. “Some companies cannot produce this information,” said Dr. Lappin, director of the Center for Companion Animal Studies at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU).

In a study that examined small animal diets claiming to contain probiotics, 26 percent of the diets examined did not demonstrate growth of any beneficial bacteria, and none of the products contained all of the organisms listed on the label. Dr. Lappin emphasized that veterinarians “should purchase probiotics from reputable companies with excellent quality control that support research on their product’s efficacy.”— Catnip staff


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