Category Archives: magical thinking

Give a dog a bone, and some germs and bugs too!

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van Bree, F.O.J, Bokken, G.C.A.M., Mineur, R., Franssen, F., Opsteegh, M., van der Giessen, J.W.B., Lipman, L.J.A. and Paul A M Overgaauw, P.A.M. (2017) ‘Zoonotic bacteria and parasites found in raw meat-based diets for cats and dogs’, Veterinary Record, vol. 182, p. 50, (DOI: 10.1136/vr.104535).
[full reference and links]

Yet another paper has just been published confirming the less than startling fact that raw diets for dogs contain what we professionals call ‘germs and bugs‘. A team of Dutch researchers looked at thirty five samples from eight commercially available brands of raw meat based diets (RMBD) and discovered bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, as well as parasites including Sarcocysts and Toxoplasma gondii in them. A staggering 80 per cent of the samples contained antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria. This seething collection of flora and fauna can cause illness in humans ranging from gastro-enteritis through haemorrhagic colitis and kidney-failure, to death in new-born babies and abortion in pregnant women. The organisms can transfer from dog to dog as well as to owners either directly from the raw-fed dog or indirectly by the contamination of the surfaces and utensils used to prepare the raw-food; they will multiply at room temperatures in food bowls. In many cases dogs can carry these micro-organisms, all the time shedding them into the environment, without showing any signs of ill health themselves. Furthermore such diets have been reported to cause problems in the dogs who eat them such as damaged teeth, perforated guts, hyperthyroidism and nutritional imbalance.

The study concludes, in that typically dispassionate way that published papers do, that owners should be made aware of the risks of feeding raw food to pets. RationalVetMed would venture a step further – just don’t! There is no good reason to feed raw food to your pets and there are serious risks to you, your family and your pets if you do. If, despite the risks, you insist on feeding raw then that is up to you but don’t kid yourself it has anything to do with supposed health benefits, because there are none, your decision is purely and simply a lifestyle choice.

See RationalVetMed.org for the full reference and links.

Magical Thinking and the ‘Tongue Worm’

Faustino-Rocha, A.I., Henriques, N. and Venâncio, C. (2017) ‘Lyssa lingualis: debunking the myth of the “tongue worm”‘, European Journal of Companion Animal
Practice, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 63-66. [Link]

There is a fascinating article in the latest edition of the European Journal of Companion Animal Practice concerning a phenomenon I hadn’t been previously aware of.

Apparently in the days of Ancient Greece it was believed that rabies was caused by a worm which lived in a dog’s tongue. This structure can be seen as a pale streak in the midline of the underside of many dogs’ tongues and is referred to as the Lyssa (Lyssa was the goddess of madness); it does indeed look a little like a worm. The ancient remedy to ‘cure’ rabies was to remove this supposed parasite after which the dog would allegedly recover and then the Lyssa itself (which would ‘wriggle’ convincingly after removal) could be used in remedies to ‘cure’ humans who had been bitten. This was performed on the dog using a blade and without any sort of sedation or anaesthetic. Who would be mad enough to perform this procedure in a rabid dog I have no idea, but it must have been agony for the dog.

So far this sounds like nothing more than a piece of interesting, if gruesome, historical information. That is until you realise that this appalling procedure is still carried out in parts of Europe today as a supposed cure for a variety of diseases including rabies, but now also distemper and parvo-virus, still with no anaesthetic.

It turns out the Lyssa is a perfectly normal anatomic structure, possessed by all dogs, it is composed of muscle and fat. Its precise function is unknown but it’s easy to imagine it might be part of the supporting structure of the tongue. What it most emphatically is NOT, is a worm, it is part of the dog and removing it serves no purpose whatsoever. The authors of the paper describe the procedure as ‘witchcraft’ and inform us it is a criminal offence.

Just another example of magical thinking in the world of veterinary medicine (although I would hope the procedure isn’t carried out by actual veterinary surgeons) and how suffering can be caused in the name of wishful thinking.

This paper is a brilliant and simple example of how science can help counter superstition and barbarity.